Cover: Evaluation of the Productivity Institute Programme

Evaluation of the Productivity Institute Programme

Formative Evaluation

Published Dec 21, 2023

by Billy Bryan, Susan Guthrie, Dominic Yiangou, Pamina Smith

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Research Questions

  1. To what extent, and how effectively, are the investments co-ordinated and together amount to a coherent programme?
  2. How has the design, commissioning and delivery of the PIP identified, addressed and engaged with the needs of policymakers, businesses, researchers and wider academic stakeholders, and workers and worker representatives, and what has this meant for ongoing programme design and delivery?
  3. How well has the programme adjusted and adapted appropriately to a changing landscape (e.g., Covid-19, net-zero transition)?
  4. How have ESRC, TPI, POID and thematic investment governance systems supported and enabled the timely delivery of research, engagement and training activities?
  5. How has the programme used monitoring, evaluation and learning to drive continuous improvements in planning and delivery?
  6. To what extent has the programme demonstrated a commitment to: Equality, diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability and good people-management practices across its approach to achieving business, policy academic impact?

The Productivity Institute Programme (PIP) was established in 2019 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to address the UK's productivity challenges. ESRC commissioned RAND Europe and Frontier Economics to conduct an evaluation of the PIP to understand the extent to which it has fulfilled its objectives. This report represents the second phase of the evaluation, which is a formative evaluation focusing on initial process evaluation questions. The evaluation used a combination of document and data reviews, process mapping, key informant interviews and a workshop to cover six process evaluation questions, each with a high-level theme. The evaluation found that the PIP investments are coherent in their research agendas but need better coordination to ensure activities complement each other. The investments have put in place mechanisms to engage with stakeholder groups, but there is room for improvement in stakeholder management and coordination. The investments have adapted well to external shocks such as Covid-19, and there is clear use of monitoring and evaluation to drive improvement. However, there is an opportunity to strengthen the extent to which this feeds into learning at the investment level. The investments have a strong commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance, but there is an evidence gap for investment-level actions. Based on the formative evaluation activities, the report proposes several recommendations to ESRC, including regular meetings between the investments, better use of MEL processes to drive improvement and planning for the future of the programme beyond the current investments.

Key Findings

PIP investments all share the same overarching direction, but the effectiveness of efforts to ensure activities complement each other is limited

The investments have put in place mechanisms to engage with stakeholders, particularly policymakers and businesses, and there is evidence of this informing policy development. Some mechanisms, such as the Regional Productivity Forums, are still developing, reflecting efforts to bring on board novel participants beyond the 'usual suspects'.

There are strong mechanisms in place for novel and inclusive stakeholder engagement

The investments have adapted well to external shocks such as Covid-19, pivoting their research efforts to productivity issues related to Covid-19, Brexit and Levelling-Up.

PIP has displayed good flexibility at all levels

PIP's overall governance structure is complex due to the size of the investment and the multiple stages of governance required. Lessons have been learned regarding governance, and ESRC and the investments have demonstrated significant reflexivity in refining their governance structures over time.

Due to the size of the investment, the overall governance structure is complex

ESRC oversees monitoring and evaluating for PIP, and there is clear use of M&E to drive improvement. However, it would be useful to strengthen the extent to which this feeds into learning at the investment level.

There is clear use of M&E to drive improvement, but it would be useful to strengthen the extent to which this feeds into learning at the investment level

PIP investments show commendable research commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance, particularly to equality, diversity, and inclusion and environmental sustainability. However, evidence on how these issues are addressed within the operation of PIP is limited, and data on EDI to quantitatively assess performance in this area are not available.

Recommendations

  • ESRC should arrange regular meetings between the investments and work with them to ensure better knowledge sharing and adequate coordination.
  • PIP investments need to build on the developing relationships with key stakeholders to deliver meaningful engagement.
  • TPI and POID need to significantly improve coordination in their stakeholder management.
  • Both ESRC and the investments should make better use of MEL processes to drive improvement while also ensuring they do not become burdensome.
  • ESRC should put in place mechanisms to capture information on and more directly encourage efforts towards EDI in investments.
  • Both ESRC and the investments should begin planning for the future of the programme beyond the current investments.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the UK Economic Social and Research Council (ESRC) and and conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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