The UK Shared Prosperity Fund Evaluation Strategy, published last week, commits to evaluating up to 25 individual USKPF projects, including randomised controlled trials (RCTs), widely recognised as the gold standard for impact evaluations. While some of the planned evaluations will be mandatory , the RCTs will be selected through a bidding process, with places submitting expressions of interest until May 10th. Here’s why you should bid.
We all believe that our projects make a difference, but at the local level it’s still rare for projects to be robustly evaluated to see if they delivered change. While we often count, for example, how many people entered work after attending new job search support, we often don’t know how many would have found a job anyway. Impact evaluations estimate how many people moved into work who would otherwise still be workless. The UKPSF RCTs provide a rare chance to demonstrate this type of added value for a local project. This is more important than ever with budgets so tight.
A safe space to fail
Places worry that impact evaluation might show an intervention didn’t work. The UKSPF Evaluation Strategy is explicit that the RCTs are designed to help local and central government learn about what works and what doesn’t. Results will not be used to assess places on their selection or delivery of interventions. This is important: good policy making should make space for ideas to ‘fail safely’. The RCTs are a good way to find out whether a new project is effective and worth longer-term investment without fear of negative consequences.
While delivery costs will come out of UKSPF budgets as usual, the RCT evaluations will be funded centrally. Costs will be covered, contracts will be managed centrally, and the independent evaluator will work with places to develop an RCT which meets their needs. All this makes the RCTs an opportunity to do high quality evaluation for places which don’t have much in-house expertise, and without the need to bring in consultants. There’s support for the bidding process as well: What Works Growth are offering advice calls in March and April to help places develop bids. Follow us on Twitter to find out when booking opens.
Find out more
The UKSPF RCTs will be a great opportunity for places to demonstrate the effectiveness of local projects. But not all projects will be suitable for an RCT, and for some places the timing may not be right. If you’re wondering whether to bid, or want to know more about the process, join the introductory webinar on 16th March to learn more, including how to develop and submit proposals. Local Authorities should have received details from the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities, or you can contact us for more information.