International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO)Winter School

Icons representing public services delivered by government

On January 18-19 2024, IPPO convened its first knowledge exchange winter school to bring together civil servants from Northern Ireland with the IPPO team, and a selection of expert speakers. The two-day school was overseen by Prof Muiris MacCarthaigh, QUB and IPPO lead for Northern Ireland.

Below is a summary of the sessions, with accompanying slides. If you are interested in finding out more please email s.o’

Session 1: Academic engagements: Recent developments and opportunities

Speaker: Sarah Chaytor – Principal Investigator for IPPO and Director of Strategy & Policy, University College London

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Sarah Chaytor has worked for over a decade in the field of how to increase the use of evidence in policymaking at UCL. Organisations that facilitate this include IPPO, UPEN, and CAPE.

This subject has moved from being niche, to an area of increased focus for research funders, government, policy professionals and universities.

Increased research budgets have led to a stronger social contract between universities and society. Universities are being required – both implicitly and explicitly – to demonstrate their public benefits and the generation of social good.

In addition, the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education (the Research Excellence Framework) is demanding more evidence of the impact of research, which has led to institutions taking this work far more seriously.

Researchers are also increasingly motivated by the sense that they want their research to have a positive impact on the world – and that moral driver underpins how they approach their work.

All this has led to the development of the UK’s evidence ecosystem. A recent review found that there are at least 46 universities with some kind of unit supporting policy engagement.

Policy engagement is by no means a clear and easy process for academics. The steps are not clearly defined and researchers must do this work while also meeting their academic targets. To help encourage knowledge exchange, Research England has ring fenced money via its Policy Support Fund and the UKRI allocates Impact Acceleration Accounts, as well as there being other resources available.

Session 2: Rapid Evidence Review on Net-Zero Policy Interventions

Speaker: Jeremy Williams, Senior Research Fellow at UCL and IPPO Policy Evidence Lead

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At IPPO, Jeremy Williams leads on establishing the demand for evidence among policy stakeholders, and the co-design and production of evidence products that can support policy development goals.

Coming from a background in local government management, he’s aware that policy development and evidence gathering tend to happen in two different worlds with differing priorities. Governments must necessarily focus on quick, day-to-day challenges, while academics often take a broader, longer-term approach.

IPPO’s approach is to conduct research projects that can meet demands for evidence in a time period that matches the pace of activity in government departments, and quickly changing political contexts.

His most recent work has been on a review of evidence on how to decarbonise homes through behavior change. Key features of this work involve the framing of evidence, so that the results can easily be understood, shared and used as part of implementation strategies.

In order to meet bespoke stakeholder demand, IPPO produces a range of outputs from deep-dive evidence reviews and systems maps, to policy briefings and blogs. The team also uses its convening power to bring likeminds to events and roundtables in order to spur conversation, and co-develop future projects.

Session 3: Implementation-Minded Policy Making

Speakers: Dan Bristow and Dr Amy Lloyd, Wales Centre for Public Policy, Cardiff and IPPO Wales

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The Welsh Centre for Public Policy recently conducted a review to better understand where the implementation of government policy is more likely to fail.

Their key findings were that policies are more likely to fail when there is ambiguity in the policy and/or misalignment between the policy and implementation context

In order to overcome these elements, civil servants need an implementation strategy to improve alignment and reduce ambiguity.

Effective implementation uses these elements:

  • Problem and context analysis
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Identifying resources and capabilities
  • Governance and collaboration
  • Leadership
  • Communication and framing
  • M&E, learning, risk management

Session 4: Evaluating policy interventions and the effects of budgetary cutbacks

Dr Claire MacRae, Centre for Public Policy, University of Glasgow and IPPO Scotland

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Other materials referenced included: How to Improve Collaboration Across Government

Session 5: Introduction to AI and Machine Learning for non-specialists

Dr Deepak Padmanabhan, School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, QUB

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Dr Deepak Padmanabhan took the group through a history of the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and what the direction of travel might meant for those working in the public sector.

Questions posed were: 

  • Is imitation of outcomes (vs. imitation of process) acceptable?
  • How does a fundamentally data-first approach sit with considerations of Inclusiveness
  • How does an absence of theory work in complex situations?

Session 6: Workshop on Co-Production and Co-Creation of Public services with Citizens

Prof Bram Verschuere, University of Ghent

Head of Department of Public Governance and Management, Professor Verschuere, teaches public administration and management and researches citizen participation, co-production, and government/civil society relations at Ghent University in Belgium. He is also on the council for the Social Welfare Centre in his hometown of Kortrijk.

Reading materials from his presentation included:

Co-production at the Crossroads of Public Adminstration Regimes

The Dark Side of Co-Creation and Co-Creation

Assessing the Effect of Co-production on Outcomes

Unravelling the Co-Producers

The Roles of the Professional in Co-Production and Co-Creation Processes

For more information about any of these sessions, please email s.o’meara@ucl.acuk.