AERA Hosts What Works Network Representatives From the UK

January 2014
Earlier this month, Gerald Sroufe, AERA director of government relations, hosted a meeting of representatives of the British government
s What Works Network. The meeting, which took place at AERA headquarters, included scholars with expertise in evaluation and dissemination.

The British delegation was sponsored by the William T. Grant Foundation, and the meeting at AERA was one of several briefings held in Washington, D.C., with research organizations, evaluation institutions, and federal agencies. The British What Works Network is a government-wide initiative, housed in the British Cabinet, aimed at providing more effective government through better use of evidence.

Leon Feinstein, director of evidence at the Early Intervention Foundation in London, noted that the networks efforts were not so much about evaluating individual programs, as in the U.S. Department of Educations What Works Clearinghouse, but about assessing the high-quality work of many clearinghouses and synthesizing it for application in specific local settings. Feinstein acknowledged heavy reliance on the work of research institutions in the United States, especially for their contribution to developing a wide range of programs judged by the network to be consistently effective.

Sarah Holloway, a Cabinet policy advisor, characterized the initiative, only three years old, as something like the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Its purpose is to use evidence as the basis for achieving better government services with fewer resources. Network refers not only to the linked efforts in the Cabinet agency but also to its work with local communities throughout the UK. One reason local government agencies work collaboratively with the network is that they anticipate concrete benefits from doing so.

The motto of the What Works Network is “Making evidence more useful and used.”