From the field: tips for policy engagement

Samoan Circle Discussion on Policy Engagement with ADB, UN-Habitat, ICIMOD and MOUD (Nepal)

I have recently been reflecting on a knowledge sharing and learning session I organized in Nepal in March 2015 on the topic of Policy Engagement. This is part of my capacity building role in the South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub. A highlight of the 2 days was a panel on policy engagement which was held in a circle where those listening could ask questions by joining the speakers in the inner circle. The speakers included Dr Mahendra Subbha, Joint Secretary DUDBC from Nepal’s Ministry of Urban Development, Bhushan Tuladhar from UN-Habitat (South Asia), Mr Nand Kishor Agrawal of ICIMOD and Vivian Castro-Woolridge of the Asian Development Bank.

Some interesting points that came out of the circle discussion included:

  • In academic and applied research, framing of issue needs to be considered
  • Consider who is the best gatekeeper? Who is a good messenger?
  • Get embedded on major committees so you can take advantage of policy windows, opportunities.
  • Sell how your research can contribute to long-term change
  • Materials should be readable, use native language, have colour and a summary
  • Reach out to those that can help – i.e. media
  • Publish science, be credible but also communicate and be relevant to society
  • Its our responsibility as researchers to create demand.
  • Collaborate (public, private and academic)

At the end of the session, each speaker was asked to give one final piece of “Key Advice”. This is what they said:

  • Think design, pre-policy and disseminate
  • Advocacy, Advocacy, Advocacy
  • Never take a top scientist to a meeting – take a communications expert
  • Rephrase and repackage

What are your tips and lessons? Please share in the comments feature!

As the Khub continues on the path of research and engagement in the urban development field I am constantly reminded of this spirited discussion. I hope it has stuck in our researchers’ minds as well 🙂

I have posted presentations from the 2 day gathering online:

If interested in the session workbook, email me for a copy (michelle.k.laurie(@)


Filed under knowledge management

2 responses to “From the field: tips for policy engagement

  1. I don’t think we need to exclude top scientists from policy engagements, but we do need them to become much better story tellers and to adopt a stance of asking assembled groups questions they don’t have answers for, rather than presenting and defending their work. Scientists are naturally curious. Engagement sessions should be a place for curiosity.

  2. Michelle Laurie

    Hi Chris, Thanks for the read and comments. Very good points. I think perhaps the words written are taken slightly out of context. I was at the dialogue session and the main message the speaker was trying to get across was that typically scientists/researchers are working outside the policy arena and often there is a communication gap. It’s important to start working together so that the knowledge generated is better communicated and the relevance is also made clear. We need to start talking together and in the case of policy makers, we need to make efforts as researchers to be succinct, relevant and actually make an effort to engage outside our universities. This needs to happen at all stages of the research (from the get-go ideally). Cheers to curiosity and hoping that we have (or create) more opportunities for engagement. Nice to connect with you here! Michelle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s