David Hayward from RMIT University answers some questions about how to influence policy, the use of research, and the importance of understanding the process.
From your experience, what makes the difference between a policy idea that ‘washes out’ and one that gains traction and creates change?
Ideas need supporters and the broader the base and the louder (not harsher) the voice, the better. Also, ideas need to run with current thinking and not hark back to past fashions. Big ideas need persistence.
From your perspective, what are the myths or misconceptions about your sector or other groups in the policy process that are getting in the way?
That Australia is a fair society with a big public sector that taxes a lot to deliver generous benefits to clients.
Where should we be putting more energy when it comes to engaging with others (e.g. formal submissions, informal conversations, committees, linkage grants)? Where should we be putting less?
We spend a bit too much time talking to ourselves, and not enough time engaging with others outside the sector. Research is critical to good policy, and should be seen as an investment. The best research in social policy involves partnerships between providers and researchers. The most effective research makes sure that those involved have a say and are kept informed for results. It also is used to support a policy cause, including ending things that don’t work as well as starting things that have promise.
What would be your number one piece of advice for those interested in making policy change (whether inside government or out)?
Be aware not just of outputs and outcomes, but also the process to be used. In social policy, the latter is often the key to the former and policy success.