Fall Research Conference


2017 Pre-Conference Workshop


2017 Pre-Conference Workshop

Policy Engagement: Building Relationships and Partnerships for Long-Term Impact

Read about the workshop


About the Workshop

Organized by the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN), in partnership with the William T. Grant Foundation, this year’s pre-conference workshop with be an intensive, interactive program to provide researchers and data scientists the opportunity to learn best practices for developing reciprocal relationships with civic intermediaries and policymakers. In the pursuit of its mission to bridge the gap between universities and the policy process, the network has identified the knowledge and skills that researchers need to use their expertise more effectively in the policy realm. The centerpiece is an approach that emphasizes relationships and research-practice partnerships between academics and practitioners, rather than the traditional model of one-way information dissemination.
This training aims to provide concrete tools to empower researchers to foster long-term, reciprocal relationships with policymakers. These relationships -- which are most formally organized as research-practice partnerships, but can take many other forms -- have the potential to address policy crises and opportunities when they arise, as well as to promote policy improvement over the long-run. Skills taught in the training include: how to develop ongoing, reciprocal, trusting relationships with policymakers and civic intermediaries; how to assess policymakers’ resources, needs, and opportunities; the timing of the policy-making process; how to make effective use of intermediary groups; how interaction with policymakers can help researchers determine better research questions; and how ongoing policy engagement can be a part of researchers’ academic success.
About SSN
The Scholars Strategy Network is a nationwide, voluntary, interdisciplinary membership organization for academics. The network is comprised of more than 800 scholars from more than 200 colleges, universities, research institutions in 43 states, with 24 regional chapters across the nation, and is constantly growing. The organization is led by a steering committee that includes Theda Skocpol, Harvard University; Jacob S. Hacker, Yale University; Suzanne Mettler, Cornell University; and Lawrence R. Jacobs, University of Minnesota. Active members include Carolyn Heinrich, Vanderbilt University and John Laub, University of Maryland.  More information can be found on the SSN website.
Workshop Logistics

Time and Location

The pre-conference workshop will be a half-day event on Wednesday, November 1, 2017. The time will be 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. The workshop will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.

Meals and Refreshments

All workshop attendees will receive lunch and have access to at least one coffee break during the event.


Online registration is now closed. Please see the main registration area onsite or email Meghan Grenda for last-minute registrations.  
There is a separate registration fee to attend.
For any questions regarding the pre-conference workshop or the 2017 Fall Research Conference, please contact Tristanne Staudt, tstaudt@appam.org.
Workshop Agenda

The day will begin with a short introductory session followed by 6 topical modules. All modules will be general sessions and attended by all participants. The workshop will be facilitated by network staff with support from workshop advisory committee members that are experts in the use of the research evidence and the co-creation of research with policymakers.  Case studies, video clips, table-based discussions, simulations, and exercises will break up the day -- there will be information presented, but this will not be a long series of lectures.

All sessions will be led by Avi Green, Executive Director of SSN, and Hannah Reuter, Associate Director of Public Policy, SSN, though several guest panelists will join as noted in the session descriptions below.

Introduction to the Day - 11:00 am - 11:30 am 

Participants are welcomed to the workshop, and asked to introduce themselves to the group (or their tables, depending on the number of participants). The goal of this module is to set the stage for the day by building relationships among participants in the room, assessing participants’ goals and making participants excited about their potential role in the policy process. Facilitators will introduce themselves and explain some of the research that supports relational model for policy engagement.

The Uses of Research and Evidence in the Policy Process - 11:30 am - 12:15 pm 

Additional Panelists: Thom Little, Director, Curriculum Development and Research, State Legislative Leaders Foundation; Jennifer Seeling, former Democratic leglislator and lobbyist; and Steve Anderson, former Republican Floor Leader in Illinois.
This core module covers two essential topics. First, it will explain the various ways that research can be used in the policy process, included tactical/symbolic, imposed, conceptual, and instrumental uses. Participants will then walk through the stages of the policymaking process: agenda setting and problem definition, policy formulation, public debate, adoption, implementation and evaluation, and review how research evidence can be used in each of these stages. Key to understanding the policymaking process is John Kingdon’s Theory of Policy Windows. Scholars will learn to recognize these moments to plan their research and public engagement using videos of real and fictionalized accounts of the policy process.


From Providing Tactical Evidence to Co-Creation Lunch - 12:30 pm - 1:15 pm

Perhaps the best way to increase the likelihood that policy makers and intermediaries use a research product is to involve them in the formulation of research questions from the get-go.  This core module will explain the co-creation of research, where practitioners and researchers work together throughout the process, as the most tried-and-true method for increasing the use of research evidence. Then a model of action will be presented that starts with building trust and proceeds to co-creation and long-term collaborations, sometimes called research-practice partnerships.


Identifying Partners - 1:15 pm - 2:00 pm

Participants will walk through a stakeholder analysis to help identify the players in policy debates. They will learn that in any given policy debate, the best partners are often not the most-high profile players. Participants will assess the roles various actors play so they can make informed choices to guide next steps in policy engagement.  This activity is a highlight of many workshops, and provides participants with a concrete road map for relationships they can create so that their research will be better inform the policy process.

Roles Scholars Can Play in the Policy Process - 2:00 pm - 2:45 pm

According to Karen Bogenschneider and others, scholarly engagement can take many forms. Participants will discuss the short and long-term pros and cons of being advocates, educators, or idea entrepreneurs. The importance of protecting their core identity as rigorous scholars and knowledge creators will be stressed. Participants will conduct a SWOT analysis (an inventory of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to determine the role that best reflects their research and their desires for public engagement. 


Refreshment Break - 2:45 pm - 3:00 pm

All attendees are welcome to mingle and discuss the day's content over coffee and light refreshments.


Using Networks and Building Relationships - 3:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Scholars will examine their networks to establish potential connections to key actors in their policy field of choice. Knowledge brokers often play a key role in making those connections. Trust is crucial when working with policymakers, and earning that trust revolves around respectful, ethical, mutually-beneficial relationships. In small groups or pairs, scholars will practice tactics to build relationships with policymakers, staff, and civic intermediaries. 


Public Engagement - 3:30 pm - 4:15 pm

There are multiple ways scholars can make their voices heard in public debates. Being cited frequently in the media can make it easier for scholars to get busy policymakers and civic leaders to pay attention to their work, and lead to partnerships, collaborations, and new opportunities – but it can also lead to misinterpretations. This module discusses the pros and cons of public engagement in general and working with the media. It also offers a framework for approaching the public presentation of research in policy process, such as providing testimony, writing a public letter of support, and serving as an expert witness. 


Reflections, Specific Next Steps, and Evaluation - 4:15 pm - 4:45 pm

Participants will take stock of the day and identify specific next steps, considering how to put what they have learned into action during the rest of the APPAM conference and beyond, with specific goals for the next 3 months and the next 2 years.  They will also be invited to give feedback on the workshop, and will learn about the Scholars Strategy Network and other organizations that can support their policy engagement over time.