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From Good Intentions to Real Impact: Rethinking the role of evidence in education businesses

This report explores the role of evidence in education businesses.

Nesta and Pearson have published a report to explore the role of evidence in education businesses. We present the standards of evidence framework that Nesta uses to guide impact measurement across its own work as a tool that could be used by others to gauge how what they are developing is working.  

Key findings

  • Ensuring education businesses and startups use evidence effectively has the potential for a new wave of education innovation to have a consistently positive impact on learning outcomes.
  • There is, therefore, a business imperative for taking evidence seriously, as well as a moral obligation for business endowed with power and resources to do all they can to ensure that what they sell works.
  • To achieve this, we need new approaches, frameworks and ways of working to reframe current understandings of what evidence is, how it is captured, and to develop strategies and systems to ensure its better use. We look to the standards of evidence used in Nesta, which were originally developed by Project Oracle, as one such approach. 

​We recognise that many businesses already possess excellent evidence of the impact of their products and services. Yet we have also come to realise this is not consistent across the field. This paper argues that we need to rethink the role of evidence in education businesses, moving away from conceptualising impact in terms of financial return, to a situation where we can robustly measure and understand impact in terms of social outcomes too.

In this paper, we present standards of evidence, an approach used by Nesta to guide the evaluation of their innovation programmes and investments. Assessing the strength of evidence is a subcomponent of Pearson’s Efficacy Framework. Taken together, we hope that they will enable education businesses to ensure that they are having the biggest impact possible.

We hope this paper will help stimulate a debate about the role evidence plays, what it could and should be, and the responsibility of businesses to commit to producing and applying it.

Authors
Geoff Mulgan, Ruth Puttick and Simon Breakspear
Foreword by Sir Michael Barber

Authors

Ruth Puttick

Ruth Puttick

Ruth Puttick

Principal Researcher - Public and Social Innovation

Ruth was Principal Researcher for public and social innovation. Ruth joined the Nesta policy and research team in 2009, working on a range of projects across innovation, investment a...

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Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive Officer

Geoff Mulgan has been Chief Executive of Nesta since 2011. Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation and runs a wide range of activities in investment, practical innovation and research.

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