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February 8, 2017

Use the evidence

It’s five years since the Christie Commission’s report heralded a new direction for public services. The big ideas of co-production and co-designing services with communities at their core were, on one level, easy to sign up for. At another level, these changes have been much harder to make happen on the ground. Nonetheless there has been huge investment in time and money in trying to kick start this process.  A new report suggests Scotland could now become a global leader in gathering and using the evidence of what works, and what doesn’t, to inform its policy making.


Carnegie UK

Scotland has potential to become a world leader in how it uses evidence to inform participative policymaking

A new report from the Carnegie UK Trust and the Alliance for Useful Evidence says that Scotland has an opportunity to become a global expert on how to deliver participative public services that focus on real quality of life improvements. In a discussion paper launched today the Trust and the Alliance highlight there has been shift in Scotland in recent years towards an approach to public services that focuses much more explicitly on outcomes and participation. This shift is not unique to Scotland, but the consensus for this type of approach to service delivery appears to run more deeply a across Scotland’s public and third sectors.  This places Scotland in a strong position to develop high quality evidence about how to improve lives through more joined up, participative public services.

Report co-author Jenny Brotchie explains: ‘Governments across the world are acutely aware that we need to find new ways of tackling complex social problems. Many have expressed a clear ambition to redesign their public services to engage more openly and directly with people and communities. As is usually the case when new approaches are being trialled the evidence base lags a little behind the policy. Gathering and using robust, useful and accessible evidence about what works in relation to this new way of delivering public services will be challenging. New tools and methods will be required. Scotland is in a good position to play a leading role in tackling some of these challenges and developing innovative new tools, methodologies and research that will be of interest not just in Scotland but across the UK and indeed the world.’

Jonathan Breckon, Director, Alliance for Useful Evidence said: ‘The big social challenges that we face are the same whether we are located in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland. While this paper focuses specifically on Scotland, policymakers and practitioners across the UK and beyond are facing the same challenges and have much to share with and learn from Scotland’.

The paper sets out 5 steps that Scotland should take:

•             Step 1: Strengthen the outcomes approach and promote the use of the National Performance Framework at local level

•             Step 2: Build a strong evidence base for the Scottish approach

•             Step 3: Develop robust and appropriate methodologies

•             Step 4: Help decision-makers, at all levels, identify and use a mix of high-quality evidence

•             Step 5: Learn from policy and evidence developments across the UK and share the Scottish experience.

You can read the full discussion paper here.