Policy Labs

Policy Labs are an elective course for students in the School of Public Policy. Run over three terms and supported by CEU faculty, students work in small teams of three-four to produce and present a piece of original research for an external client that is engaged in public policy advocacy, implementation and development. Clients vary in size and subject, but all come from the public, private and civic sectors and share a common interest for using social science research in support their work.

Policy Labs offer real-time practical experience on producing and using policy research. The course is based on the assumption that in many cases, policy oriented research is carried out by teams rather than individuals. Policy labs are made up of small groups working in close collaboration, drawing on quantitative and qualitative methods, and making their recommendations after close consultation with interested parties.

Participants learn how to communicate their research to audiences from very different backgrounds. Students need to show imagination and creativity in presenting and explaining their findings and to show an appreciation of the organizational and policy context in which their research might be used. Research design needs to demonstrate relevance and participants need to be able to show confidence that their chosen research methods can stand up to scrutiny.

Policy Labs will be of interest to organizations that amass data but, for reasons of time or capacity, are unable to analyze or systematically exploit the material. Analyses carried out by Policy Labs can help inform internal decision making and provide research based knowledge for advocacy work. Policy Labs can communicate current academic research with tailored literature reviews addressing specific questions. Labs can make direct contributions to improving and developing client initiatives. They can, for example, offer alternative methods for project evaluation or impact assessments, using field visits, interviews, small group interviews and original surveys. Methodologies vary with projects but are always worked out in close collaboration between Policy Lab groups and the client.

Student participants can see how their research fits within a real time cycle with the workplan following very specifics schedules in mind, for instance, to be presented as part of an ongoing review, to address a particular event or public hearing or to help initiate a new advocacy program.

Policy Lab outputs include briefing reports, policy studies, reviews of academic and practitioner literatures, policy scenarios and situation reports and in-depth case studies.


Course Director: Andrew Cartwright



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