The Wales Centre for Public Policy: our Theory of Change

The Wales Centre for Public Policy works with leading policy experts to provide Ministers, the civil service and public services in Wales with independent and authoritative evidence and expertise. It also conducts research on the processes and practices of policy-making and evidence use to contribute to knowledge and inform its own ways of working.

Who we are

We are a multi-disciplinary team which blends first-hand experience of working in academia, the civil service, and the public and private sector. This diverse range of backgrounds enables us to work effectively with our partners, including academic colleagues across the UK and beyond, to maximise the impact of their research on policy-making and enable decision-makers to make the best use of evidence to tackle key public policy issues.

Our Theory of Change

There is widespread agreement across diverse policy and research communities that evidence can play a vital role in processes of democratic deliberation on the aims, design and implementation of public policy interventions. The challenge for everyone working at the interface of policy and research is how to assess the value (impact) of what we do.

To address this challenge, we engaged in a process to define our “theory of change”. We produced a model of our ways of working that starts from what we want to achieve, and articulates the relationship between that and who we are, what we do, how we do it and what we measure. It has been a team endeavour, and has proved to be an extremely constructive and creative process. Collectively, we identified five important and interdependent roles that represent the breadth of what we do.

As a team we:
1. Interpret evidence needs : by maintaining close relationships with Ministers, officials and public service leaders, through our formal and informal networks and through ongoing monitoring of policy developments.
2. Convene evidence and expertise: by co-designing a responsive programme of research and evidence synthesis to meet the evidence needs of policy-makers in Wales across a range of policy fields, and by facilitating interaction between policy-makers and experts.
3. Advance understanding of evidence and policy: by undertaking and publishing research that contributes to knowledge and practice on policy-making and evidence use.
4. Communicate evidence: by producing a variety of accessible outputs tailored for different audiences.
5. Advocate for and build capacity to use evidence: by acting as a trusted source of independent expert advice, demonstrating the value of evidence and expertise for policy and practice, promoting an evidence-based culture and building capacity around evidence use.

Measuring impact: getting beyond numbers

The value of our theory of change is that it allows us to explain to our partners and stakeholders what we do, why and how we do it. It provides a framework to examine whether our work is making a difference. We have identified a range of factors that will help us to understand our impact and inform our future practice. This is not just about numbers. We are developing ways to assess the quality of our relationships, and how the interactions we broker between policymakers and experts increases the appetite for and builds capacity to use evidence in policy-making processes. Keep an eye on our website for reports on the progress we have made in measuring our impact.

Professor James Downe is Professor in Public Policy & Management in Cardiff Business School and Director of Research at the Wales Centre for Public Policy. His research interests are on local government policy, ethics and performance regimes.
Dr Hannah Durrant is Senior Research Fellow at Wales Centre for Public Policy with a focus on the politics and political processes of knowledge production, evidence use and expertise in policymaking.
Dr Eleanor MacKillop is Research Associate at Wales Centre for Public Policy. Her research focuses on the role of evidence and evidence brokers in policy-making, and evaluating the Well-Being of Future Generations Act recently adopted in Wales.


 Authors: Professor James Downe, Professor in Public Policy & Management in Cardiff Business School and Director of Research at the Wales Centre for Public Policy, Dr Hannah Durrant Senior Research Fellow at WCfPP, Dr Eleanor MacKillop Research Associate at WCfPP
Authors: Professor James Downe, Professor in Public Policy & Management in Cardiff Business School and Director of Research at the Wales Centre for Public Policy, Dr Hannah Durrant Senior Research Fellow at WCfPP, Dr Eleanor MacKillop Research Associate at WCfPP


Posted 25/06/2019 10:14

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