Andrea Lee: Case study

at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)

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Deputy Director, Strategic Analysis, Department for Communities and Local Government

Working at a Government Department that aims to move decision-making power from the centre to local councils and communities, I wanted to explore the evidence on decentralised systems and whether they are more resilient and lead to better outcomes. But that was just the starting point…

My Policy Fellowship began with a one-week visit to Cambridge where I had over thirty meetings with experts from many disciplines. With the whole of the University accessible to a Policy Fellow, it can prove difficult to confine yourself to a few lines of enquiry for fear of missing out on the sheer breadth of knowledge that is opened up for you. But I need not have worried; my questions were merely the starting point and provided hooks on which to have wide-ranging and fascinating conversations.

I would never have imagined at the outset that I’d find connections between manufacturing processes, active volcanoes, the engineering behind bridge building, community-based entrepreneurship, the Poor Laws and much more. I was also curious to learn more about how the University works and discovered it is in fact a decentralised system itself.

Undertaking the Policy Fellowship has been a sharp reminder to open up my own perspectives and develop new ways of thinking. CSaP provides the means to break down silos, and through unexpected conversations injects a level of challenge that is intellectually stimulating and very rewarding.

Thanks to the week in Cambridge, my team has been connected to a world-class network of researchers. Follow-up has already included connecting my policy colleagues to relevant academics; inviting speakers to come and talk in the Department; and collaborating on developing systems thinking and cities research. Thanks to the Policy Fellowship I feel sure that I have already made progress towards bridging the policy-research divide. Over the next year or so it will be important to maintain momentum in building the relationships, and ensure that we continue to learn from each other and embed this learning in policy development.