Working in economic development means using a range of evidence day-to-day—the most recent employment numbers, a What Works Growth evidence review, survey responses from area businesses, or lessons learnt reports about previous projects.
In our report Evidence-based policy in disadvantaged places, we recommend improving data infrastructure and carrying out ‘evidence diagnostics’. Having a good understanding of how data and evidence are currently used is a key part of improving their use.
However, with plenty of companies touting a new ‘big data’ product, and lots of evaluations and ‘impact assessments’ available, how do people know what makes evidence useful? And how do people decide which evidence to prioritise when developing new projects?
We’re developing a new workshop on using evidence in economic development. To make it useful for local government, we want to include practical exercises, and share stories from people to emphasise why evidence is so important.
We’re inviting our readers in local government to share examples of how they’ve changed their mind on an issue after reviewing the research, or picked a different project once they looked at local data in a new way.
Maybe you added automatic reminders to training participants after reading an evidence toolkit, or targeted interventions more after looking at subgroups of your population. Perhaps you changed what places you were comparing against, and that highlighted new key issues.
One example we’ve heard from an economic development team started with a new officer joining. In re-examining their datasets, they made significant changes to their approach.
We were labouring under a lot of myths about what we thought was the make-up of our economic structure, our working population… Because [our officer] started to take some time to re-examine that, what we’re realising is that a lot of what we thought we understood, it’s largely a misunderstanding based on scale.
If you have an example to share of how using evidence improved economic growth policies and projects in your local government organisation, please get in touch. We can anonymise your organisation or give you full credit.