Session Summary: Public and Nonprofit Sector Perspectives: Using Research to Inform Decision Making in Policy, Planning and Evaluation
Agnes Buanya is a Public Policy PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Sharaelle Grzesiak, Department of Veterans Affairs
Ted Horan, Social Security Administration
John Hutchins, MDRC
Jamila Kennedy, Government Accountability Office
Raun Lazier, Department of Veterans Affairs
Connie Neal, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
There were 2 key questions addressed in this session: what is the importance of research in policymaking and how can researchers make their work more accessible and relevant to policymakers. It became increasingly clear as each panelist spoke that researchers must and can play an integral role in policymaking.
Jamila Kennedy from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated continually that thorough and relevant research data was necessary for program evaluation and implementing program changes. She went on to explain that research was critical in building a strong factual conceptual base for decision making.
Sharaelle Grzesiak from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) highlighted the importance of quality research, saying that the VA has 7 research programs that provide a great deal of data to policymakers which aids them in program planning and decision making.
All of the panelists emphasized the importance of the need for researchers to broadly disseminate their work.
John Hutchins from MDRC explained that they are two approaches researchers can take in disseminating their work. First, there is the "wholesale approach." This requires researchers to make their work more accessible and relevant to policymakers. This can be accomplished by making research easily digestible with summaries, infographics, etc. The second approach focuses on a "retail approach" which requires researchers to build relationships with potential consumers of their work, policymakers. The problem with this approach is that it takes a lot of work and time.
The next theme the presenters emphasized was the importance of collaboration. All of the panelists emphasized that the work researchers produce could be useful to policymakers in program planning and program evaluation. Unfortunately there are currently many barriers for researchers in getting their work seen by policymakers.
Ted Horan from the Social Security Administration for example, stressed that because they are constantly in the process of program evaluation every organization needs researchers that provide valuable data and analysis that allows organizations not to have to be in a "reactive mode" when change occurs.
Connie Neal from the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence described the creation of successful connections, networks, and relationships between researchers and policymakers as taking more than just an email. It takes time and effort.
The session ended with an admonition that collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers is vital for effectively addressing the nation’s social problems.