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How to Strategise, Scope and Plan for Policy Impact

Banner - Introduction

By contributing to policy, it is possible to use your research to influence change that is both deep and wide. Whether you seek to inform the policies of an organisation, local government, national policy or guidelines, or influence policy on the international stage, this course will provide practical guidance on using your research to change how things are done, for the better. The course is designed to empower you to work with policy, whether you are a natural or social scientist at the start of your career or in a more senior position. There are strategies that will work if you are on a shoestring budget or part of a large, well-funded project.

You will learn how to negotiate complex power dynamics, and see how your own values and assumptions influence how you work with policy. You will learn informing and influencing strategies, and explore the different roles you can play in policy networks. You will also learn practical skills to communicate your research effectively to policy audiences and collect evidence of policy impacts. However, you will also be invited to question the very basis of your ability to influence policy as a member of the academic elite, influencing policy elites without involving the people who will ultimately be impacted by the policies you shape. In so doing, you will be able to reflect on responsible approaches to engaging with policy that question how policy problems are framed, what solutions might be on or off the table, and enable more equitable and effective policies to be developed. This “responsible policy impact” approach draws on principles from “responsible research and innovation”, to enable you to work directly with policy colleagues, with members of wider policy networks and with those who are ultimately affected by policies, within the constraints of an academic role.

By the end of this module you will:

  • Be aware of the pressures which policy colleagues are often under and empathise with their perspective
  • Be able to distinguish between policy engagement versus impact, identifying additional impacts that can occur before and after policy impacts.
  • Be clear on your intrinsic motivations for engaging with policy, and capable of strategically aligning with extrinsic incentives for impact from funders and research assessments
  • Understand the complexities and challenges of real policy processes, so you can adapt your approach to meet policy needs.
  • Recognise and be able to identify and question what counts as evidence in policy-making
  • Be able to take a responsible approach to engaging with policy that recognises complexity, navigates policy relationships and manages power
  • Have practised risk management techniques for policy impact.
  • Have identified and prioritised the most relevant individuals, teams and organisations from policy networks for engagement based on their relative interest, influence and impact (3i) for at least one project/initiative.
  • Be able to identify when evidence is sufficiently strong to justify policy engagement and where evidence is limited, weak or mixed, as well as developing strategies for enhancing the evidence-base prior to policy engagement.
  • Be able to use 3i insights to guide your policy engagement strategies and roles.
  • Be able to articulate realistic policy, evidence and impact objectives.
  • Find ways to build confidence and balance personal and professional demands sustainably to be an effective and reliable policy impact contributor.