Looking forward to talking about some of my experiences attempting to influence public policy and, along the way, lay out a general framework for how you might approach impacting policy with your own research
My contention is that most things worth changing are the way they are because of politics. People have devoted/are devoting resources to effecting some condition. IF you want to change this condition, it is going to require the application of resources to overturn that apple cart.For many of us, we want what we want, but we’re not naturally political animals willing to compromise. I’m not saying you need to compromise what you find in your research—you shouldn’t—but I am saying that thinking about politics (why things are the way they are) can help you realize appropriate spaces for influence that allow you to best structure your work for impact
The overall aim for today is to think through and present ways that research can be best tailored to impact public policy. Along the way, I hope this will help you to think about your own research and I’d love to hear your thoughts about public policy change related to your research.To accomplish all this, I’ll start by briefly reviewing how my perspective on this topic has developed and is developing. Then, through some examples and discussion of some general principles, I’ll talk about structuring research for public policy impact. Three key sections to consider—what the purpose of your research is, who your policy audience is, and the appropriate ways to influence this audience. Lastly, talk about pulling together these three elements to lay out an overall strategy for influencing public policy through your research.
After an education focused on political science and public administration, I joined a university public service organization devoted to providing policy advice. I was in a position where most of this advice was solicited. An organization would contact us to help them complete a project that would hopefully help achieve some beneficial change in public policy. Even in the situation where people asked for advice, influencing policy is no mean feat. It can be even more challenging when the advice you offer is unsolicited.
My overall research aims to better understand the impacts of particular institutions and institutional arrangements on the process and outputs of regional policymaking. My dissertation research looks at one particular institution—universities—within this context. There are really two components of this research, and I’ll start in briefly describing the second. How are universities able to influence regional policy? Essentially, what is it about how a university interacts with its policy environment and who else is engaged in that environment that impacts the level of influence a university can assert. Examining two things—how often do you find yourself at the decision-making table and what resources do you and others bring to the table to effect influence.Secondly, and really the purpose of my talk today, is how does the internal organization of a university impact how it can interact with its policy environment. In our terms, what can we as researchers do to best set ourselves up for achieving policy impact?
An ideal, but often overlooked or underemphasized place to start is what is your purpose. What are you trying to address or impact?I’ll briefly review a project I began working on in 2007. For some time there has been an awareness that even though the US had a headstart, it has now fallen behind many industrialized nations in the level of access individuals have to high speed internet connections, and the quality of this infrastructure more generally. I received funding for and began work on a project looking at the problem of and potential for broadband internet connections in a rural county of the state of Delaware. It was a classic unsolicited situation. I had a client, but it was a funding source, not really someone that had to be convinced to effect change. As I’ll detail in the next few slides, there were a few things problematic with this project…no clear purpose (what were we trying to effect) and no clear audience (who would need to be influenced…in some cases this is because it was a new thing and in some ways this influenced the success of ARRA funding…there was no agency for broadband in the same way that there are agencies for transportation). So myself and a few RAs did what we thought was a great job in laying out the issues and opportunities. In retrospect, we did a poor job in communicating this, and even cut out some of this framing do save time in the summit. What do you want us to do with this information? We convened a summit to discuss, but this is really where the communication fell short, leading to some responses like the following.Moral, do yourself a favor and clearly specify options, players, and why you’ve asked folks to be involved
One thing I’d wish I’d done
Policy subsystems – EDA and CEDS as an example of miscastingSometimes the answers to these questions are not the sameFederal vs. state vs. local
Quite a pick me up (if your work is on cities, I apologize for the downer), governance concept implies that we have to think broadlyIn United States politics, the iron triangle is a term used by political scientists to describe the policy-making relationship among the congressional committees, the bureaucracy (executive) (sometimes called "government agencies"), and interest groups.For example, within the federal government the three sides often consist of: various congressional committees, which are responsible for funding government programs and operations and then providing oversight of them; the federal agencies(often Independent agencies), which are responsible for the regulation of those affected industries; and last, the industries themselves, as well as their trade associations and lobbying groups, which benefit, or seek benefit, from these operations and programs.
State Strategies – budget framing Resource exchange model
Unsolicited advice: lessons for impacting public policy
Troy D. Mix, AICP
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign email@example.com
LESSONS FOR IMPACTING
Prepared for the NEURUS-ICURD Workshop & Seminar
April 10, 2013
Peril and promise of politics
“To turn concern into action requires politics.”
Lemann, Nicholas. (2013, April 15). When the
Earth moved. The New Yorker, 73-76.
Politics as the determinant of who gets what, when,
Lasswell, Harold Dwight. (1950). Politics: Who gets
what, when, how. New York: P. Smith.
Goals and agenda
Offer a framework for researchers to evaluate and revise
approaches to impacting public policy
Stimulate discussion about the applicability of this
framework to ongoing research
Relevant professional background and research activity
Considering your purpose
Considering your audience
Considering points of policy leverage
Executing a strategy for policy influence
5 years as a planner and policy researcher at a
university public service organization
Applied research projects focused on…
Local and regional planning and economic
State and federal agencies, local governments,
nonprofits, and research institutes
Research on institutions and regional
1. Howdo the
2. What factors
the level and
to act in these
Vertical differentation (levels of
of above tasks;levelswithin
Configuration(Degree of separation
Measure of centralitywithin regional
Communicating research purpose
What problem are you
trying to address?
Lack of specificity
“I wasn’t sure what you
were going for.”
“Thanks for wasting my
Broadband touted as potential
economic engine for Sussex County
Three steps to clarifying your purpose
Topic: I am studying __________________
Question: because I want to find out
Significance (research/practical): in order to help
my reader understand _____________.
I am studying household incomes and demographic
conditions in Georgetown, Delaware because I want to find
out the regional potential for retail sales, in order to help
the local Chamber of Commerce understand business
Booth, Wayne C., Colomb, Gregory G., & Williams, Joseph M. (2008). The
craft of research (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Defining your research audience
Who is the “client”?
Who asked for your work?
Who needs to be affected by your work?
Clients’ goals can be conflicting
Addressing one set of goals can slight others
Addressing all sets of goals can muddle impacts
Clarifying your research client
“City governments are not simple hierarchical systems run on
authoritarian lines. They are complex, open systems serving
diverse and partially contradictory goals, responding to
conflicting constituencies, whose authority is diffused, whose
inertia is enormous, and whose ability to plan and direct change
is excruciatingly small. (p. 130)”
Policy is made in subsystems or
Interests and capabilities for action
may vary substantially across network
Szanton, Peter L. (1981). Not well advised. New York: Russell Sage Foundation:
Points of policy leverage
What messages will influence particular audiences?
From preserving quality of life to preserving fiscal
for State Policies
Framing and communicating findings
for policy impact
What is your study an instance of?
Situate your study within a larger discussion
What resources can you contribute to this discussion?
Descriptive or explanatory information? For whom?
For what purpose? Why will they listen to you?
What resources will others contribute to this
How will you answer contrary findings and claims?
From ivory tower to implementation
Researchers tend to respond directly to a research
To impact policy requires reaching consumers outside of
this research market
Add a nonmarket perspective to your research
Clarify your purpose
Identify your audience(s)
Examine the critical questions and communicate them in an