Simon Maxwell, Director, ODI
Ann Pettifor, Director, Jubilee Research
Baroness Margaret Jay, ODI
- Baroness Jay introduced the question to be addressed this meeting, namely: How can one be an effective policy entrepreneur? And is policy entrepreneurship an art or a science?
- Simon Maxwell spoke on the topic of how researchers can be successful policy entrepreneurs. He introduced the topic by referring to a quote that illustrates how inept researchers can sometimes be at engaging with policy processes: "… government ministers and civil servants were scathing about some of the [research] work they receive. This is claimed all too often to speak naively of policy issues, demonstrate little or no awareness of current policy, is over-technical and sometimes need drastic editing to make it readable to key players." (Commission on the Social Sciences (2003), Great Expectations: the Social Sciences in Britain, Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences, London)
- He emphasised that he was not addressing the problem of campaigning, even research-rich campaigning. Ann Pettifor was a role model in that respect, but campaigning was a different skill. Nor were his remarks addressed to pure researchers.
- Instead, he was dealing with researchers interested in policy. The task could best be summarised in the title of Diane Stone's book on think tanks and policy processes): 'Capturing the Political Imagination'. How can we do this?
- We know already that policy is not formed in a linear fashion. There are many theoretical models to guide us (for overviews, see previous work by Sutton - ODI Working Paper 118, Crewe & Young - ODI Working Paper 173, and De Vibe et al - ODI Working Paper 174.) The Research and Policy Programme (RAPID) at ODI has organised these theories into a three-dimensional framework, focusing on the three spheres of policy context, evidence, and links.
- Policy entrepreneurship by researchers is only one small part of the process. The options can be presented as four different approaches to policy entrepreneurship.
- A successful policy entrepreneur needs to be a good storyteller. This can be illustrated by Sheherazade, who told stories to stay alive. Stories may resemble development narratives (as examined by Roe). Powerful narratives include the desertification narrative and the narrative of structural adjustment.
- A successful policy entrepreneur needs to be a good networker. ODI networks and meetings offer good examples of epistemic communities in the international development field.
- A successful policy entrepreneur needs to be a good engineer, (as illustrated by Brunel). 'Policy is what policy does', and there is little point in having a policy on paper if it is not implemented by the 'street level bureaucrats'. Researchers need to engage both with high-level policy makers and ground-level practitioners.
- A successful policy entrepreneur needs to be a good fixer (like Rasputin). It is important to understand the political game surrounding the policy process. If you want to change anything you need to identify the relevant sources of power (which according to Charles Handy can be divided into categories of physical, resource, position, expert, personal, or negative).
- Final issues and questions:
- How do we make the right choices regarding sequencing and time prioritisation?
- Are there hidden trade-offs? For example, it is sometimes difficult to strike a balance between ODI's public and private activities.
- Can we expect one individual to take on all these four styles of entrepreneurship, or do we need to construct teams that combine the four styles as a group?
- Can policy entrepreneurship be taught? Simon suggested that the answer to this final question is yes.
- Simon also invited the audience to fill out a questionnaire on policy entrepreneurship.
- It is important to keep messages to policy makers simple.
- Should we add another style of policy entrepreneur to Simon's four types, namely style of policy champion or policy advocate?
- New ministers are often looking for a cause to champion.
- If it is difficult to engage with academics - are there ways of bringing them on board right from the start?
- Perhaps places like ODI needs a policy and strategic wing on the one side and an active, militant wing on the other side.
- Ann's talk brought up new ways to use evidence. Firstly, she suggested that evidence can be used to refute and to challenge your opponents. Secondly, she suggested that evidence can be used to demystify; complex evidence can be used to back up a simple and understandable narrative.
- Successful policy change is often built on many 'dead bodies' or previous failed attempts. (It takes many bricks to build a wall with a policy window…)
- Jubilee 2000 managed to capture the political imagination partly because it built on religious narratives that spoke to certain groups.
- Advertising is not the same as policy change. If advertising can be compared to slight shifts in a tributary flow, policy change, on the other hand, is about reversing the flow of the entire river.
The seventh event in the 'Does Evidence Matter?' series examined the role of the policy entrepreneur. It tackled questions like:
- How can one be an effective policy entrepreneur?
- Is policy entrepreneurship an art or a science?