Translating Public Policy Into Action

Evidence-based policy is central to much contemporary governmental thinking. But how the different phases of policy delivery can best engage ‘real people’ is not always clear. This is true whether the intended policy concerns health, the knowledge economy, or even global sustainability. There is still much to be done in understanding human agency and interaction in policy development and delivery.
In many aspects of public policy, from health through life-long learning and the economy to global sustainability, it is not simply the science or knowledge base which is important. Of equal, or sometimes greater, importance is an understanding of how to apply the established evidence which informs policy.
Phases in public policy development
There are, or should be, a number of phases in developing public policy.
The first phase is to derive as much consensus as possible about the necessary evidence base (both scientific and contextual) and the second is to consider how this ‘translates’ – an exercise which is currently being taken forward overtly by the government in relation to scientific knowledge, industry and business.
Securing public agreement or at least encouraging constructive and informed public debate is another phase which must run alongside these first two phases.
This ‘third’ phase is at risk when the established modes of policy development continue.
Public debate
The government has now gone some way to seek proper public debate on issues around science, technology, health and so forth. It is not as yet clear however that the corollary of this emphasis has been absorbed by the wider knowledge-related industries or even by some whose task is to deliver policy for real.
We all know that fundamental research and the intricacies of, say, applied medical knowledge are critical for the future. What is less well understood is that there remain huge gaps in our understandings of how such knowledge becomes operational in the real world.
People are what makes things happen. How they do so, in the contexts of such enormous challenges as global warming, the diseases of contemporary societies and the rapidly changing communities we all live in, has yet to be made clear.
Making things happen depends on people
Despite all our problems, many of us in the western world live in the best conditions human beings have ever known. Ensuring this continues and is shared even more widely is very largely a task for policy makers informed by a social rather than natural scientific knowledge base.
Fundamental science certainly needs to remain at the centre of knowledge creation; but, whether in health, industry or the environment, it must be matched by an equally well researched knowledge of the social world, if there is to be any real hope of public policies to sustain all our futures.

Posted on November 17, 2007, in Education, Health And Welfare, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Science Politics And Policy, Sustainability As If People Mattered. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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