Linking research and policy for local economies

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This chapter looks at the evidence base for local economic growth policies, and at the wider evidence ecosystem (Shepherd 2014), in particular the relationships between the local growth research community (mainly academics) and policy communities in central and local government. For the leaders of cities such as Birmingham and Chicago, understanding how the complex drivers of economic change play out in specific ‘regeneration economies’ is crucial. Equally, to have a chance of tackling economic and social challenges, decision- makers in these and other cities need to develop policies that draw on robust evaluation evidence from a range of academic disciplines and fields.

I explore how these research-policy interactions and challenges play out by looking at a recently established – and ongoing – government experiment in the UK, the ‘What Works’ network. This has established a number of ‘What Works Centres’ that gather, evaluate and translate evidence on policy effectiveness across nine broad policy areas, and to help public sector decision-makers make better policy. I focus on the findings and experiences of the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, the part of the Network closest to regeneration economies debates.

The chapter begins with a discussion on the role of evidence in policymaking, and identifies a number of constraints in the effective use of research findings in policy development and implementation. It goes on to review a range of responses by Governments around the world: the What Works movement and the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth have counterparts in many countries. I reprise the key findings from the Centre’s work to do date, and discuss the implications for local policymakers. I conclude with some broader reflections on the political economy of evidence: the linkages between researchers and policymakers, and some of the systemic challenges that remain, both in effective evaluation of local growth policy and in using evaluation evidence in policy decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Research Agenda for Regeneration Economies
Subtitle of host publicationReading City-Regions
EditorsLauren Andres, John Bryson, Rachel Mulhall
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978 1 78536 029 9
ISBN (Print)978 1 78536 028 2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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