Emily Miles: Case study

at Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

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Group Director, Strategy, Defra

“I approached my CSaP Policy Fellowship as an excellent opportunity not only to understand more about certain research areas key to my new position, but also to aid my personal development as a leader.”

I started my Fellowship just as I took up the position of Group Director, Strategy at Defra. My Fellowship gave me the opportunity to engage with researchers on topics such as environmental economics, trends in data, and leadership management. In particular, I really valued the discussions on biodiversity, environmental economics, and resource efficiency and usage.

A conversation with Rob Doubleday about genetically modified organisms made me think expansively about how to use technology in a way that is publicly acceptable. My meetings at Cambridge also made me aware of Professor Susan Owens’ recent study on the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

As someone who was new to Defra at the time, having this information provided me with a vivid sense of memory and understanding regarding the public debates which have shaped the department.

I also participated in a CSaP workshop on civil society, co-convened by Julia Unwin, Chair of the Independent Inquiry on the Future of Civil Society. Her view that we should reframe the formality of language around volunteering to be more in line with the usage of ordinary citizens, influenced a Defra think piece on environmental volunteering.

Above all, my Fellowship has given me access to a network of expert researchers, which I feel I can draw upon at any time. Innovation expert, Professor Jaideep Prabhu, recently joined us at Defra for an engaging talk as part of our Defra Greenhouse talk series. And rural economist, Professor Ian Hodge, presented to a panel of senior civil servants in Defra Group regarding the future of farming and ecosystem services.

CSaP’s network has made it much easier to get expert perspectives from outside the policy making sphere, and I hope to continue this collaborative work with CSaP in the future. I will also encourage others within my directorate to undertake CSaP Fellowships.