Seven principles for measuring what matters .A guide to effective public policy-making

janvier 2009

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Résumé :

Investment in public services has increased since the foundation of the welfare state in the 1940s, yet economic inequality is wider now than it was 60 years ago. The place and circumstances of our birth remains a major predictor of our future health, educational and economic prospects. Returns on investment have been low and it is our contention that measurement has played a central role in this.

In the Measuring What Matters programme we set out to develop ways of measuring and valuing that will help us to build effective public services. Our research across three very different policy areas – economic development, children in care and criminal justice – found that making visible and valuing the outcomes that matter most to individuals, communities and society leads to more informed policy-making. For instance, valuing the improved well-being of children in care – rather than focusing on the unit cost of delivering that care – could help ensure that more appropriate placement decisions are made.

Many of the social, economic and environmental outcomes which we measured and valued in the course of this research also turn out to have significant positive implications for the public purse. For example, the children of women offenders are likely to fare better in life if custodial sentences are eschewed in favour of community penalties that enable mothers to maintain contact with their children. In the short-term money is saved on social services provision for these children. In the longer-term there may be a reduced risk of children becoming offenders and a better chance of the kind of educational attainment and social adjustment that will translate into lower societal costs for welfare benefits and the criminal justice system.

Based on this research nef offers a set of principles for policy-makers that are a distillation of the findings. There is an urgent need for the adoption of approaches such as Social Return on Investment (SROI).