The Policy Year in Review

12 January 2016


Reported by Matthew McGuire, ESRC-Funded CSaP Policy Intern (October 2015 - January 2016)

CSaP's Policy Fellows met at the Institute for Contemporary Arts for an open discussion reflecting on the important policy issues of 2015 and those emerging for 2016.

The event was chaired by CSaP’s Dr Robert Doubleday and participants included Fellows from Defra, BIS, the Cabinet Office, Department of Health, FCO, Ofgem, Friends of the Earth and Forum for the Future. As each Fellow introduced themselves and their work they reflected on a year of unique challenges and opportunities.

Paris 2015

Late 2015 saw the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, which was important for many Fellows. The event was seen as significant by many. Some suggested that the conference had the potential to incentivise change, while others suggested there was need for more extensive and innovative international cooperation. The discussion was an opportunity for Fellows to share their experiences of working toward Paris in 2015, as well as to propose how the UK could lead the international response.

Policy experiments, evidence, and upscaling

The discussion of climate change and the recent UK floods led into discussion of modelling and risk management within policy. We focused in particular on the limitations of predictive modelling, and the use of scenarios for strategy and planning within the FCO, Forum for the Future, and Defra. Parallels were drawn with policy learning in other contexts, for example decentralised decision-making in health and local government, and the implications for policy evaluation. Discussion returned to the need for a range of methods – going beyond best practice, RCTs, and What Works to include contextual and qualitative dimensions – for disseminating policy learning and innovation.

Brexit and the European Union membership referendum

A live topic for all Fellows was the UK’s forthcoming EU membership referendum. We discussed implications for the UK and its international relationships in broad terms, considering the issues from each Fellow’s perspective. The magnitude of potential impacts – affecting amongst other things security and resilience, environmental regulations, and international relations – suggests the EU membership referendum will be 2016’s big policy issue for many of our Fellows.

Overall, the lunch revealed the range of perspectives on the big issues of 2015 and 2016. The CSaP team looks forward to hearing how our Fellows will face these opportunities and challenges during the coming year, and the role the Policy Fellows Network can play in this.

(Banner image from Dafne Cholet on Flickr)