How to Influence Policy / Pour influencer les politiques

Sending your research to policy makers will have little influence on their decisions; however, if you understand these 10 elements then you have a better chance at creating the conditions where your research can inform policy.

Le fait d’envoyer vos travaux de recherche aux décideurs aura peu d’influence sur leurs décisions ; mais si vous comprenez bien ces 10 éléments, vous saurez mettre en place les conditions dans lesquelles vos travaux auront de meilleures chances d’influencer les politiques.

10 Things to know about how to influence policy with research

For all the academic researchers (and their supporters and partners) in the audience, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is the UK’s leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues. I love this short but highly informative summary synthesizing many years of scholarship and practice on research to policy impact. Louise Shaxon is a co-author, someone who has worked on the ground in policy influence.

This document illustrates how difficult it is to influence policy makers and gives tips on how to overcome some of the barriers. The top 10 are below. Check out the document for tips on each of these that will help to move your research evidence towards policy.

1. Know what you want to influence
2. Know who you want to influence
3. Know when to influence – this is often harder to know than the first two
4. Build relationships and networks
5. Policy development is not a linear process
6. Policy making is inherently political
7. Plan your engagement
8. Focus on ideas (not problems) and be proposition (i.e. give them a solution)
9. It takes time
10. Monitor, learn and adjust along the way

A note on three of these:

#6. Policy making is inherently political. A senior bureaucrat said to me once, “Evidence doesn’t vote”. Evidence is only one input into the policy making process. This connects to #4 Relationships and Networks. You (and your evidence) won’t succeed alone. Make the connections to other parts of the broader policy system (advocates, associations, the public, media) to align policy advocacy efforts.

#7. Plan Your Engagement: This document recommends you go beyond dissemination methods to more engaged methods of uptake such as public events and meetings. I don’t think this goes far enough. We know from the PARIHS framework that uptake of evidence needs to be facilitated in the context of decision making. Meetings are good. Facilitated workshops of your evidence with policy makers, especially if the workshop is jointly facilitated by a policy maker, will create greater opportunities for policy makers to engage with your evidence. And yet I will go one step further. Seek opportunities to collaborate with policy makers to co-create the evidence that they need and is also important to your scholarship. This is not them contracting you to do their work (although that also has a role) but about finding areas of mutual interest that produce excellent academic scholarship that can also be used in decision making. See Bowen & Graham for more on engaged scholarship vs. knowledge transfer.

#10. Monitor, learn and adjust along the way. In addition to the actions in the document, I recommend you remain in touch with the policy makers so that you can capture the evidence of the impact of your efforts. You won’t know: 1) if your research was used; and 2) if it was did that use informed a change; and 3) if it did what difference did the change make to anyone. This doesn’t have to be onerous or formal. An e mail or phone call every six months reminding them of your engagement efforts and asking if the evidence was used, implemented and if it made a difference will help you track from your research to your engagement efforts to eventual policy impact.

Thank you, Louise and colleagues, for a concise and useful document to guide policy influence. It’s not an easy process but you have provided guidance to overcome some of the barriers.

The document can be downloaded from ODI here.

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