SPEaR's Chair Professor Richard Bedford affirms the relationship of some well known cliches to social policy research and evaluation.
Collaboration is key, one size does not fit all, and integrated processes deliver real outcomes. This “one-liner” captures the essence of what I want to convey in this comment, reflecting on issues the social policy, research and evaluation communities face going forward.
Experience suggests that fostering an integrated strategic approach to research and evaluation is critical for achieving successful policy outcomes. We need to add knowledge to the dialogue and decision-making mix throughout cycles of planning, development, deployment and delivery. This takes energy, time and human resources. Good management of our policy processes means factoring in the R&E contribution at all stages to get outcomes that are well-informed from the outset and measured to prove the worth of publicly resourced actions.
The production of timely, quality knowledge is both an art and a science in complex operating environments. In the New Zealand social policy context, Ministries, Government agencies and a wide range of knowledge creation sites in the academic, community and private sectors interact in a multitude of ways to inform policy development and operation.
In this edition we see examples of a “new framework to bring greater cohesion” at the Department of Internal Affairs and the “outcome focus” at Inland Revenue where evaluators work alongside strategic and policy functions. In summary, the underpinning lesson is collaboration must be valued and invested in, if R&E is to be embedded in policy and service delivery.
We also have commentary in our lead stories about gaps in knowledge in the context of growing ethnic diversity in our society. Factoring a wider range of perspectives into the equation when forming policy interventions is going to become increasingly necessary to effectively manage and govern our multicultural reality. Knowledge in the form of values, views and hard numbers from Māori, Pasifika and other ethnic groups in our population needs to sit alongside the dominant Kiwi paradigm to chart cohesive progress. As noted earlier, one size does not fit all, so our actions should not reflect the contrary.
At a time of significant structural change in our population, we need to be thinking actively about future scenarios and policy responses. Smart modelling utilising demographic projections and intervention variables is vital for seeing ahead – something SPEaR has had foresight to invest in as evidenced in the article "Demography experts in New Zealand".
So collaboration in the context of interconnected social issues and shifting dynamics is fundamental. There are interesting and exciting challenges for us all as we seek to make a useful contribution to evidence-informed social policy leading to enhanced social wellbeing.