I recently spoke at a national conference on The Art and Science of Knowledge Exchange on maximizing policy impact. The focus of the conference was on HIV/AIDS and I argued that key things needed by people with HIV/AIDS — from comprehensive health and related services, information to enable individuals to better manage their health care, investment in research and service/program development, to many changes beyond health care and research such as community capacity and resource building and addressing underlying social determinants of health — all flow through government policy in one way or another. So, maximizing the policy impact of knowledge exchange and research is a critical part of winning the necessary progressive policy changes. And this, of course, applies to many other communities and issues as well.
My key messages were that to turn knowledge, program proposals or research into policy action requires that:
1. policy makers know about the research or program and its implications → knowledge exchange strategy for all research projects/programs and community organizations;
2. policy makers understand the basis of the problem → means reports have to clearly set out policy implications;
3. you give policy makers concrete policy solutions or alternatives that will address whatever the problem is → the more “policy-ready” the recommendations, the better;
4. policy makers have the political will to act – often beyond the power of individual research projects/programs → where advocacy, alliances and coalitions come in.
I had made a related presentation to a CIHR seminar of HIV researchers on maximizing the impact of their findings last year. Wellesley Institute has also developed a number of workshops over the years on understanding complex policy environments, translating complex issues into actionable and policy-ready alternatives, making effective policy cases, and enhancing the policy impact of community-based and other research.