Speed dating experience blog

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One strand of the Open Policy Making agenda is about using a broader range of evidence to inform policy.

For example the What Works centres were set up to enable policy officials to access research and make use of it for better decision making.

In contrast Arts and Humanities research is less visible and familiar to policy officials although there are various pockets of interactions between researchers within these traditions and civil servants (such as these examples).

Arts and humanities research covers about 50 fields from media and communication to history, literature to curating, design to theatre.

It wasn’t just about researchers packaging up their research.

The academics wanted to understand more about how the civil servants do their work.

Co-organised with Professor Keri Facer, University of Bristol and AHRC Leadership Fellow for Connected Communities Programme and Hannah Rutter, Senior Policy Adviser in the Cabinet Office, this event was an experiment both in its content - to see if such research could be of value to policy makers - and its format – to see what modes of engagement could work between professionals working in different kinds of context and in relation to different time frames.

We planned to have equal numbers of civil servants and researchers but in the end, seven policy officials from the Cabinet Office, DCLG and Public Health England participated, meeting 11 academics from several English universities with specialisms in history, languages, literature, design, art, media and communication and education research.

For example Dr Helen Manchester from University of Bristol shared the Tangible Memories project that brought together researchers from the arts, social history and computer science to help improve the quality of life for residents in care homes by building a sense of community and shared experience through a cooperative exploration of their life history stories.

Dr Andrew Miles from University of Manchester shared the Everyday Participation project that is producing rich insights into how people take part in every day activities and what assumptions and ways of thinking underpin this.

Professor Gowan Dawson from the University of Leicester shared insights from Victorian efforts to involve people in scientific research – an early forerunner for today’s citizen science.

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