What Works is a UK government-led initiative to enable commissioners of public services to access independent, high quality, accessible evidence syntheses across a broad range of social policy areas.

ESRC currently invests in seven of the nine What Works Centres as well as funding other related non-What Works investments such as the UK-wide member network Alliance for Useful Evidence. Our What Works investments are always funded in collaboration with others including a range of government departments or other public bodies and are underpinned by a commitment to shared goals; strong user involvement; a rigours and transparent commissioning process; independence; and high academic quality.

ESRC-supported What Works centres enable leading social scientists to evaluate the availability and quality of evidence underpinning public policy interventions, compare the effectiveness of interventions, and advise those commissioning and undertaking interventions to ensure that their work can be evaluated effectively. They also identify research and capability gaps, working with partners to fill them.

ESRC continues to commit in the region of £2.5 million a year to its broad What Works portfolio which will reach across Britain, focusing on key policy areas including:

  • crime reduction
  • local economic growth
  • public sector reform
  • public policy
  • early intervention
  • wellbeing

In conjunction with understanding, improving and creating demand for the use of evidence in decision making.

Related initiatives

The Alliance is a UK-wide open network and forum to champion the use of evidence in social policy and practice (in partnership with the BIG Lottery Fund and NESTA).