Over the last 10 years there has been a growth in evidence centres being established – both in the UK and internationally. Some of these have been funded by national governments and others by independent research institutes or philanthropists. These centres aim to improve a range of societal outcomes (e.g. tackling housing problems, reducing crime or reducing poverty) by increasing the use of evidence in public policy and services. However, each evidence centre has developed its own distinctive evidence philosophy and methods for working with its users, as suited to its unique context.

This resource is an attempt to distil some of the learning that has been generated – both in the UK and internationally – about how to set up an evidence centre. It is aimed at anyone who is in the early stages of establishing a new evidence centre.

This publication identifies five common ingredients that contribute to successful evidence centres:

  1. Clear objectives: Identifying the centre’s target user group, outcomes to work towards and a theory of change.
  2. Robust organisational development: Establishing independence and effective governance, employing staff with the right mix of skills and experience, and planning on the basis of realistic timescales.
  3. Engaged users: Understanding users’ evidence needs and working collaboratively with them to increase their capability, motivation and opportunity to use evidence.
  4. Rigorous curation and creation of evidence: A robust and transparent approach to selecting and generating high-quality evidence for your users.
  5. A focus on impact: Commitment to learn from the centre’s activities, including successes and failures, so that you can increase your effectiveness in achieving your objectives.
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