The Dartington Social Research Unit has worked collaboratively with international experts to produce a set of ‘what works’ evidence standards. These clear, transparent standards can be applied to determine which programmes work in improving children’s outcomes.
These standards form the basis of the Investing in Children ‘what works’ portal for commissioners that provides a database of proven services for commissioners of children’s services. The Standards have also underpinned numerous others, including the Project Oracle and NESTA Standards of Evidence.
The Dartington Social Research Unit have produced a detailed guide to ‘what works’ Standards of Evidence.
In short, the Standards of Evidence revolve around four questions and dimensions:
- Service specificity
This relates to the design of a service. Is it focused, practical, logical and designed using the best available evidence about what types of factors affect child outcomes and what works in improving outcomes?
- System readiness
This relates to the way in which a service is implemented. Is there enough information and resources that come with a service – like manuals, training material and implementation procedures – so that it can be rolled out within public service systems, like the education, health, youth justice and social care systems? Is there sufficient information about what financial and human resources are needed to deliver a service?
- Evaluation quality
Are the impact evaluation/evaluations of a service robust enough in their design and execution to give us confidence in the results? This dimension hinges on the premise that in social science impact evaluation requires a control group to compare the effect of getting the service versus not getting the service.
What do robust evaluations tell us about how much impact the service has on key developmental outcomes for children – those outcomes that really matter in terms of children’s future life chances?