Seeing it from the other side reflections on a knowledge transfer placement
Seeing it from the other side - reflections on a knowledge transfer placement Natalie Armstrong University of Leicesterwww.le.ac.uk
ESRC Knowledge Transfer Placement SchemeThe scheme encourages social science researchers to spend time within apartner organisation to undertake policy-relevant research and to developthe research skills of partner employees.Aims of the scheme are to:• Promote knowledge transfer between academic departments and partner organisations and the staff employed in them;• Provide partner organisations with research-informed evidence to develop and review policy;• Expand networks for partner organisations into academia;• Provide career development opportunities and offer skills updating;• Enable all parties, including ESRC, to develop their understanding of research and policymaking process and the interactions between them.
The UK Cabinet Office• The Cabinet Office sits at the very centre of government and, together with the Treasury, provides the ‘head office’ of government.• The Cabinet Office sits at the very centre of government, with an overarching purpose of “making government work better”.• It supports the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, helping to ensure effective development, coordination and implementation of policy and operations across all government departments.• It also leads work to ensure the Civil Service provides the most effective and efficient support to Government to help it meet its objectives.
The Strategy Unit• Its key objectives were: i) To provide a cross-departmental perspective on the major strategic opportunities and challenges facing the UK ii) To work with departments in developing effective strategies and building strategic capability across Whitehall; and iii) To provide strategic advice and support to the Prime Minister/No 10
What was the Strategy Unit like?• About 45 people worked there• Range of roles (Director, Deputy Directors, Senior Policy Advisors, Policy Advisors)• Generally people worked in either project teams (youth/education; welfare; value for money) or Standing Teams (Health / Home Affairs / Foreign Policy)• People were typically fairly young, very ambitious, extremely intelligent, high achievers
How they approached their workStrategy Survival Guide• The Strategy Survival Guide aims to support strategy development and promote strategic thinking in government. It encourages a project-based approach to developing strategy and describes four typical project phases. It also discusses a range of skills and useful tools and approaches that can help to foster strategic thinking. It is offered as a resource and reference guide, and not intended as a prescription or off-the-shelf solution to successful strategy work.
Strategy Development• Effective strategy development requires the mandate to challenge, the space to think and the commitment of stakeholders. For these, and many other reasons, strategy work is best undertaken within the context of a clearly defined project that can act as a focal point for generating momentum behind a change in conventional thinking.
Strategy Skills• Successful strategies are rarely achieved by spontaneous flashes of genius, but rather result from the systematic collection, analysis and evaluation of facts, circumstances, trends and opinions.• In the same way, teams do not work to maximum effectiveness and strategies do not deliver full benefit unless explicit attention is given to understanding the motivations and developing relationships with the people involved.• Successful strategy work therefore requires a wide range of skills, including those below. Although each skill may prove to be of most use at particular phase of a project, the relevance of each is by no means confined to any one phase.
What did I work on?• Researching and developing a proposal on reforming the treatment of minor ailments.• Developing and delivering a ‘Foundation Day’ training programme.• Researching policy options to create a more personalised and preventive service for people with, or who may be at risk of developing, chronic disease in the UK. This work fed into the Department of Health’s recently published document “NHS 2010–2015: from good to great. Preventative, people-centred, productive”.
But...• The bulk of my time was spent working as part of a small team developing a vision for 21st century maternity and early years’ care, in collaboration with the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.• This was published on 16th March 2010.
Key points for this session• How academic research evidence fits into the broader range of evidence that policy-makers have available to them;• How qualitative research evidence is understood and evaluated by policymakers;• How best to present and communicate the outcomes of qualitative research for a policy audience, including common pitfalls and how to avoid them;• The value and limitations of this type of Placement Fellowship in building bridges between academic research and policy-makers.
Position of academic research evidence• Seemed to be viewed as: - credible - objective - authoritative• Great in an ideal world, but also: - slow? - inflexible? - resource hungry?• Academic research vs management consultancy
Position of qualitative research• Still primacy of economics/quantitative?• ‘Customer insight’ work• Some nervousness about representativeness etc• More accessible/engaging? - human element - direct quotations - characters
Communicating qualitative research• Commissioned vs non-commissioned work• If commissioned: - keep in dialogue - be challenging (if it’s called for) - give feedback for mid-course corrections• If non-commissioned: - can never start thinking about it too early - try to get people eagerly awaiting your findings - network, network, network… - use your press office
How to tell a policymaker something• Start top-down• What do they need to do, or do differently?• What issue that they’ve got can you help with?• Do the translation/application for them• What could be different as a result?• Not so interested in how you did your research
The Placement Fellowship schemeI learnt a lot:• Insight into how policy actually gets made• Better understanding of how academic work viewed and approached• Better awareness of other kinds of ‘evidence’• Skills from SU training courses
The Placement Fellowship schemeBut there were some drawbacks:• Treated just like another pair of hands sometimes• Risk of ‘going native’
Presented at the 2nd Europeanconference on Qualitative Research forPolicy Making, 26 -27 May 2011, Belfast For more information Please visit: http://www.merlien.org