Toolkits for Academic Policy Engagement: Resources from CAPE

11 November 2023


Toolkits for Academic Policy Engagement: Resources from the CAPE Project

Reported by Jennie Leggat, CAPE Fellow (2022-2023)

The Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) project has been exploring ways to strengthen engagement between universities and public policy.

Dr Amy Beckett (Interim Programmes and Impact Manager, CAPE); Nicky Buckley (Director, Fellowships and Networks, CSaP); Dr Ine Steenmans (Assistant Professor, UCL); and Dr Olivia Stevenson (Deputy Director, Public Policy, UCL) presented the work being done to support universities, and the opportunities and challenges associated with achieving academic-policy engagement.

You can listen to a recording of this session here:

In her opening remarks, Dr Ine Steenmans explained that one of the challenges to strengthening academic-policy engagement among policy makers was the need to develop multiple coupled competencies e.g. how to engage evidence, how to make sense of it, how to judge quality, and how to integrate this into the policy making process.

The Engaging with Evidence Toolkit

Dr Steenmans’ team were responsible for developing the Engaging with Evidence Toolkit in collaboration with Nesta, which was based on learnings obtained during an academic-policy engagement pilot with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The toolkit offers a range of interactive activities that can be used to determine what evidence and expertise is needed for what purposes - and the principles, processes, methodologies, and tools that can support this work.

Dr Olivia Stevenson co-authored the CAPE report on Co-production in regional academic policy engagement: developing optimal conditions which, she explained, has less of a focus on “how-to” and instead presents a set of questions that guide thinking about how best to foster both academic and citizen policy engagement in different regional contexts – taking into consideration local geographies, politics, and priorities.

The toolkit was iteratively co-produced with academics, policy makers, civil society representatives and knowledge mobilisers through workshops, surveys, and interviews. It was designed to be a reference document that all players could return to throughout the co-production process to ensure that the “right path” was being followed.

Dr Stevenson explained that the toolkit identified optimal conditions to supporting co-production in regional policy engagement, such as ensuring sufficient time for initial discussions, developing a shared understanding and mutual goals, creating relational spaces, establishing an ethics of care, and embedding co-production as a way of working.

Hosting Policy Fellows

Nicola Buckley described the benefits of Policy Fellowships hosted by universities as an effective way of enhancing academic-policy engagement. She explained how policy professionals have the opportunity through Fellowships programmes to engage in a structured period of networking with academics to support their policy questions.

Feedback from those taking part in Fellowships programmes suggests that they have been largely successful in terms of refreshing policy maker perspectives, and evaluation indicates that up to a third of participants reported specific impacts on the policy development process.

The CAPE guide for HEIs on Hosting Policy Fellows outlines the roles of key players such as professional staff, academics, and policy makers in facilitating Fellowships programme, and also provides resources such as possible timelines for Fellowships as well as templates for selecting Policy Fellows and carrying out an evaluation. The guide also provides useful tips on how to engage academics with the programme, and advice on how to design follow-on activities that benefit both parties, such as co-producing reports and grant applications.

Dr Amy Beckett

CAPE - Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement

Nicky Buckley

Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge

Dr Ine Steenmans

University College London (UCL)

Dr Olivia Stevenson

University College London (UCL)