Friday, June 28, 2019

Manchester policy, forward motion and our new handbook

We launched our new book at work last week - Transforming Policy and Research. It's a handbook to help academics navigate the way towards having a positive impact on policy. Loads of researchers I know do amazing work, far better than the kind of thinking that comes out of political parties and many conventional think tanks. Our task is to help them translate that knowledge, those insights, into a place where they can co-produce positive outcomes.

In that spirit, I invited along Elizabeth Mitchell from the policy team at Manchester City Council to speak to the audience. I'm sure many people listening to her insights and noting down her examples of good practice would have been thinking the same as me: why has this fantastically bright public servant committed her career to Manchester? I'm sure she would thrive in any central government ministry. The answer lies behind the premise of the question, I suppose. Why wouldn't you want to be in Manchester? Even with the punishing budget cuts and the apparent slowing of the progress of devolution, the city, the Combined Authority and the associated institutions are innovative and dynamic places to be. Much more so than a national government paralysed by Brexit.

In the latest issue of our bi-annual MetroPolis magazine, I touch upon these themes and the thought I keep coming back to is 'ambition'. It happens to be one of the pillars of the University strategy, which is in itself an example of that successful forward motion that good strategies are supposed to give you. There would be no point doing any of this if we were howling into the darkness. But we believe we have an opportunity to be part of a movement of policy enablers in our civic universities. It also coincided with the release of a sparkling new website, which rightly emphasises our key themes: public service reform, building a caring society, and creating future cities. We've also launched a section for Policy Thinkers, to broaden out our community of thinkers and practitioners.

Taken together, it's more than just a handbook, but a toolkit, a set of resources and structures that can bring together agents for change and better policy. It's also a work in progress, blissfully.

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