Friday, 20 December 2013

Trust in Government: Causes, consequences and solutions

This blog post on trust in governments is a compilation of presentations given at the OECD Workshop entitled "Joint Learning for an OECD Trust Strategy", held on 14 October 2013. The post, composed by Melinda Deleuze, is part of Wikiprogress' December spotlight on governance.

During the workshop, a variety of topics were discussed regarding trust in governments. Some common themes were why measuring trust is important, how to measure trust, the reflection of trust in governments on quality of governments, the crisis' impact on trust and reasons for lack of trust.

To give some highlights:

  • Trust in government is intermingled with many other areas, namely:
    • policy effectiveness
    • economic policy
    • the economy
    • the economic crisis
    • compliance
    • accountability
    • regulation
    • education
    • social capital
  • After the crisis, in Iceland, trust in institutions remained relatively high, trust in politicians very low, and voter turnout relatively high.
  • To strengthen the quality of government, there should be:
    • free universal education
    • universal social services/insurance systems
    • fairness (impartiality) in the implementation of public policies
    • merit-based recruitment and promotion to the civil service
    • gender equality
  •  Unemployment has a strong, negative effect on trust in public institutions. 

In the presentation below, Yann Algan discusses the relationships between institutions, inequality/segmentation and trust. He also examines how to identify impact of policy on trust.

In the presentation below, Tracy Burns discusses trends in governance and education, satisfaction with the education system, accountability, and positive outcomes possible with educated adults.


In the presentation below,  Diane Coyle discusses how trust affects the economy and the challenges faced.

In the presentation below, Dóra Györffy discusses trust in-depth including its relationship with decision-making, economic policy, popularity of government and its influence on the crisis.

In the presentation below, Pall Thorhallsson discusses the pre-crash situation, the nature of the 2008 crash, and the crash's impact on trust. He also mentions reasons for the lacking trust.


In the presentation below, Marco Mira d’Ercole discusses the interest and importance of trust, how trust should be measured and trust's broader relationship with the quality of democratic institutions.


In the presentation below, Felix Roth discusses the consequences of citizens declining trust and the driving factors of declining trust in Europe. He also provides an econometric analysis of trust and unemployment.

In the presentation below,  Bo Rothstein discusses how to capture the quality of government and its impact on social trust. He also provides suggestions for what can be done to strengthen quality of government.

In the presentation below, Frédérique Six discusses effective regulation, the trust triangle, compliance and a trust regime.

In the presentation below,  Mario Solis-Garcia discusses why trust matters and uses a simple economic model to see how government trust influences environment, government, households and timing.



Friday, 13 December 2013

How sustainable is well-being? Measuring resources for the future

This post, written by Carrie Exton (Statistics Directorate of the OECD), is part of the Wikiprogress series on How's Life? 2013 chapter on "Measuring the sustainability of well-being over time". 

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So said Søren Kierkegaard.  It is certainly easier to make sense of events with hindsight. The financial crisis that began in 2007 is likely to become a textbook example of a catastrophic event that very few (or certainly not enough) people saw coming. The 2013 edition of How’s Life?” shows the human cost of the financial crisis, reminding us that, much like stock market investments, people’s well-being can go down as well as up. So how can statistics help us to understand whether the choices made by current generations are likely to put the well-being of future generations at risk? 

Most statistics tend to look backwards. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to measure things that have already happened. But measures of progress also need to look forwards. That is why How’s Life? 2013 also includes a chapter about measuring the sustainability of well-being over time. It’s not the most attention-grabbing part of the report: there aren’t many pictures, and you won’t find a bar-chart showing which country is the ‘most sustainable’. What it does include is a proposal for how the OECD could monitor the resources which help to sustain well-being over time in the future.
It can be helpful to think about the sustainability of well-being in terms of risk-management, where measurement means identifying and regularly auditing risks. In several cases, we are already know something about where to look: you can read about the risks of climate change and financial meltdown in the newspapers almost every day. But some risks, such as those concerning social ties and trust, are less tangible. Getting good quality and internationally comparable data on each of these risks is harder still. Yet building an international picture is vital, because the sustainability of well-being is undoubtedly a global issue, with risks that require international cooperation if they are to be managed effectively. 

To gain a fuller understanding of risks, we need to start by mapping out what helps to sustain well-being over time. A recent UNECE/ Eurostat/ OECD Task Force for Measuring Sustainable Development identified four key types of resources that can be measured today, and that are likely to help shape the well-being of future generations: economic, natural, human, and social capital.  These resources are described as “capital” because they reflect the assets and liabilities that we carry forwards over time. For many people, capital means things like money and machines – and while these are important, they are certainly not the only resources that matter for well-being. So this notion of “capital” for well-being is very broad, and doesn’t necessarily mean measuring everything in terms of money. We know, for example, that there is often a difference between something’s price tag and its well-being value, and in many cases we are far from being able to estimate the size of that gap accurately.  

Click on image to enlarge

For several types of capital, the measurement effort is well underway. How’s Life? 2013 already includes some information about household wealth, education, levels of trust, and the environment. National accounts include information about economic capital; OECD’s Green Growth indicators and Environmental Outlook to 2050 (among others) describe several important types of natural capital; OECD’s skills surveys, health and labour statistics can help to inform estimates of human capital; and Statistics Directorate have recently set out a measurement agenda for social capital

For How’s Life? the next step will be to bring together a concise set of indicators that can capture resource stocks on a human scale, including where possible their evolution over time and their distribution across society. “Trans-boundary impacts” (i.e. the impacts that countries have on one another) and “flow” measures (such as investment, depletion and degradation) will also be important indicators – particularly where these highlight significant risk factors, such as in the case of carbon emissions. Measures also need to reflect the latest evidence on the thresholds or tipping points beyond which stocks of resources might be considered dangerously low or imbalanced. 

Stocks of resources or capital are not the only determinants of well-being over time, but they offer a practical way to examine links between the present and the future: through the accumulation or depletion of resource stocks, the choices made by one generation can influence the opportunities available to the next. It’s important to start measuring the sustainability of well-being alongside current well-being outcomes – the future is, after all, where we’re going to spend the rest of our lives.

- Carrie Exton

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The time is ripe for evidence

This blog, written by Rebecca Kilburn & Michael Frearson (RAND), is about the increasing commitment to use more child well-being evidence when making policy-related decisions. The post is a part of the Wikiprogress December Series on Governance.

Earlier this year, the European Commission renewed its commitment to promoting child well-being and made a recommendation entitled ‘Investing in children – breaking the cycle of disadvantage’ as part of the Social Investment Package to promote that goal. One of the guidelines was to strengthen the use of evidence-based policy. This particular recommendation is noteworthy, because it represents one of the first times that the European Commission has specifically advocated the use of evidence in policy making.
The field of education initiated several research synthesis projects early in the century, including the Best Evidence Encyclopedia and the What Works Clearinghouse in the US. More recently, the European Commission established the online European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC), which screens and summarises evidence-based information related to children and their families across the EU and also provides a pan-European mechanism for individuals to share lessons learned in child policy and practice.

The demand for information about what works in the field of child and family services has grown due to the desire to ensure that tighter budgets are used effectively, coupled with the greater accountability that decision-makers face. In the early 1990s when the Cochrane Collaboration began gathering and pooling medical studies, an analogous project in the field of child and family policy would have been unthinkable due to a dearth of studies that would have met the criteria for high-quality evidence. But now there is a growing supply of research accumulating to inform child and family policy, and that research is increasingly meeting high standards of evidence. It employs rigorous methods, such as randomised trials, and there is now a sufficient quantity and quality of evidence to enable the aggregation of evidence-information in a systematic way.

As the supply of rigorous studies in the field of child and family policy has grown, so too have the resources that summarise evidence-based information for decision makers. In the United States, at least nine evidence-based practice platforms (EBPs) present information and EBP resources that include evidence that relates to child and family services there. In the EU, EPIC provides information on policies and practices which can help children and families cope with the current challenges which emerged due to the European economic climate. A central component of this project is an online repository of evidence-based practice. The ‘Practices that Work’ section of EPIC gathers, reviews and summarises evidence on effective strategies across the 28 member states.

Today’s austerity measures are unprecedented in the history of the EU. In 2013, EU leaders cut its seven-year budget for the first time ever. Additionally, major stakeholders such as Eurochild have noted that the well-being of children across the EU has deteriorated in the last year as result of the economic crisis. Recognition of the impact of the financial crisis on children, and the lingering austere economic climate, has led public and private supporters of child and family services to further scrutinise expenditures. Decision makers want to ensure that their limited funds are being used for policies and services that are effective. At the same time that funding for child and family services has come under strain, policymakers at all levels of government have also been subject to greater accountability than in the past.

Decision makers now have much easier access to a growing amount of evidence-based information related to children’s issues than in the past. A number of considerations can help put this information to best use:

First, even though the supply and quality of evidence-based information is greater now than ever before, it is not necessarily the case that evidence-based information should be given more weight than other factors that contribute to decision making. Evidence is an important piece of the policy making puzzle, but other factors, such as political considerations, values, funding and experience will necessarily also need to contribute to decision making. Innovation also matters greatly, as does facilitating the exchange of experience and practical lessons learned. Still, evidence has a place at the policy making table, and platforms such as EPIC are but one of the strategies for making evidence more useful for decision making.

Second, the supply and quality of information is highly variable across sub-fields of child policy. In an age of burgeoning availability of information, decision makers can take advantage of evidence platforms to help understand what is the ‘best available evidence’ that relates to children’s issues.

Third, decision makers will need to adapt evidence to meet local conditions, as evidence from around the EU is generated in differing contexts. The User Registry located within the ‘Practices that Work’ section of the EPIC website enables the capture of a number of practices and information on innovative practices to be shared with users and stakeholders. In doing so, it recognises that a variety of approaches may be chosen by stakeholders and practitioners.

Finally, decision makers can contribute to better policy making by sharing experiences and innovations in children’s policy, aggregating lessons learned in using evidence in the same way that the research evidence itself is aggregated. Evidence-based platforms (EBPs) such as EPIC recognise the importance of collective experience with features to capture and share this type of information in addition to aggregating the research evidence.

 A way forward may be for not-for-profit organisations and charities to encourage funders (be they government or alternative sources) to increase the share of funds available for evaluations. This approach would help meet requirements to provide evidence from evaluations where it is needed, and strengthen the evidence base. In countries such as the United States, approaches to evaluations have shifted from a pass/fail typology to a focus on Continuous Quality Improvement and program improvement. Evidence-based platforms favour such an approach, which can help individual programs and entire fields of intervention to become more effective through evaluation and evidence.

Dr Rebecca Kilburn is the co-Principal Investigator of the European Platform for Investing in Children project at RAND. She served as Director of the Promising Practices Network (PPN) on Children, Families and Communities for nearly 15 years. In this capacity, she helped develop the evidence criteria and processes used to conduct reviews, and she has overseen hundreds of systematic reviews of child and family programmes. During her 20 years at RAND, much of Dr Kilburn’s research has examined the effects of public and private investments in childhood. 

 Dr Michael Frearson is a Research Leader for education and skills at RAND Europe. He has more than 15 years’ experience working with schools, further and higher education and work-based learning. Michael has directed research on children, young people, employment and skills and conducted high-profile evaluations of flagship public policy interventions for children and young people, such as the Play Pathfinders and Play Builders programme and the Learner Home Access to Technology programme (for the UK Department for Education).   

This blog first appeared as on 2 December, 2013 on the Alliance for Useful Evidence website, as well as a RAND Europe technical note