Special issue blog series on Transformational Change through Public Policy.
The expertise of people with lived experience is receiving increased attention within policy making arenas. Yet consultation processes have, for the most part, been led by public servants, with limited resources provided for supporting the community engagement vital to the inclusion of lived experience experts in policy making. What would policy decisions look like if the voices of the communities who live with the consequences of these decisions were prioritised not only in consultation processes, but in determining priorities and policy processes from the outset? This is one of the questions we explore in our recent article published in the special issue on Transformational Change in Public Policy.
As community-engaged policy researchers, along with Leah Levac, Laura Pin, Ethel Tungohan and Sarah Marie Wiebe, our attention has been focused on how to engage meaningfully and work together with the communities impacted by our research, the very communities often systematically excluded from policy processes. Across our different research programmes, we work together with people experiencing precarious housing and homelessness, migrant workers, northern and Indigenous women, First Nations, and trans and gender diverse people. The lessons we have learned in our research with these communities are useful for our work and for these communities, as well as for policy makers and other actors wanting to engage meaningfully with community stakeholders.
Our new article, “Transforming Public Policy with Engaged Scholarship: Better Together,” describes these lessons, showing how engaged scholarship can inform the meaningful inclusion of people with lived expertise in public policy making. We draw on Marianne Beaulieu, Mylaine Breton and Astrid Brouselle’s work to focus on four principles of engaged scholarship. The principles we focus on include prioritising community needs, practicing reciprocity, recognising multiple ways of knowing, and crossing disciplinary and sectoral boundaries. Using five vignettes from our own research, we link these principles to our practice, highlighting how policy makers can do the same. In one vignette, co-author Sarah Marie Wiebe describes how her research with people in Aamjiwnaang in Canada was made possible through the sustained time and effort of relationship building and learning about the lived experiences of community members. As she explains in the article, this work included sensing the pollution in the surrounding atmosphere firsthand through participation in a “toxic tour” of the community’s location next to Canada’s Chemical Valley. In another vignette, co-author Ethel Tungohan details how migrant community leaders led a study looking at migrant workers’ housing precarity, enabling more responsive forms of engagement with municipal policy makers who tend to ignore migrant workers’ housing issues.
These, and the other vignettes included in the paper, reveal the importance of witnessing, hearing, listening, recognising, feeling, and prioritising community needs. The researchers also attend to the themes of learning from mistakes, engaging reciprocally with community partners, building relationships, and the never-neutral, always complex nature of gathering evidence and centring diverse forms of community expertise.
Overall, the article illustrates the “transformative potential” of applying the principles of engaged scholarship to policy making. Both policy scholars and practitioners stand to gain insights from attending more carefully to working together with and meaningfully engaging the community while enacting humility and learning together as research collaborators and partners.
You can read the original research in Policy & Politics:
Leah Levac, Alana Cattapan, et al. (2022) Transforming public policy with engaged scholarship: better together Policy & Politics DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557321X16485722290035
Introduction to Transformational Change through Public Policy (Oscar Berglund, Claire Dunlop, Elizabeth Koebele and Chris Weible)
The impact of direct democracy on policy change: insights from European citizens’ initiatives (Jale Tosun, Daniel Béland & Yannis Papadopoulos)
The democratic transformation of Public Policy through community activism in Brazil (Rosana de Freitas Boullosa & Janaína Lopes Pereira Peres)
Lessons from policy theories for the pursuit of equity in health, education, and gender policy (Paul Cairney, Emily St Denny, Sean Kippin, Heather Mitchell)
A Future Research Agenda for Transformational Urban Policy Studies (Meghan Joy & Ronald K. Vogel)
Transforming Public Policy with Engaged Scholarship: Better Together (Leah Levac, Alana Cattapan, Tobin LeBlanc Haley, Laura Pin, Ethel Tungohan, & Sarah Marie Wiebe)
When do disasters spark transformative policy change and why? (Daniel Nohrstedt)
New pathways to paradigm change in Public Policy: Combining insights from policy design, mix and feedback (Sebastian Sewerin, Michael Howlett & Benjamin Cashore)
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