It’s time academics listened to charities says report

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Carnegie UK Trust says the idea that all knowledge comes from universities is outdated and academics need to work with charities to improve public policy

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18th May 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

If university academics and charity workers worked more closely together public policy would be improved.

That’s the view of Carnegie UK Trust who says that to make an impact on social policy universities must work more closely with civil society.

Its Interaction report claims the academic institutions should no longer be considered the sole producers of all knowledge when it comes to creating policy and those, such as charities, which carry out services, have a valuable input into discussions.

“The notion that universities have a monopoly on knowledge production that must be transferred out to users is outdated,” Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE and author of the report said.

Universities and the third sector have a shared interest in achieving impact and have different types of knowledge and expertise

“Both practitioners and academic institutions are knowledge creators. Universities and the third sector have a shared interest in achieving impact and have different types of knowledge and expertise that they can bring to the table. There are many mutual benefits which should encourage cooperation.”

As well as drawing on existing research, the trust consulted with stakeholders from across the UK and held roundtable events in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Newcastle.

It sets out two models for better interaction between groups including a radical coproduction model which merges the boundaries between universities and the public.

It also identifies 19 specific recommendations for universities, the third sector and funders to aid more effective collaboration.

These include employing specialists to facilitate between the worlds of social science, policy and practice; investing to find ways for academics and practitioners to work together; and making it easier for third sector organisations, businesses and members of the public to make contact with researchers in universities.

Shucksmith continued: “There are some barriers we must also consider. Academic institutions produce highly valued evidence but this is not always readily accessible.

“Measures of academic success are often too narrowly focused encouraging institutions to turn inwards and away from society. A number of universities are however already engaging in activity that involve deeper interaction and partnership working with communities and the third sector and we hope this report will act as a stepping stone for more collaborative working moving forward.”

Marytn Evans, chief executive of Carnegie UK Trust, said: “We need to mix the rigour and authority of academic research with the passion and drive of the voluntary sector.

“A modern partnership, built upon genuine mutual respect, would mean there is a chance to impact on the most intractable public policy challenges of the 21st century.”

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, welcomed the report. She said: “Robust academic evidence is a vital ingredient for effective social change but it also needs to be timely, relevant and applicable.

“In this report Professor Shucksmith sets out how universities can forge deeper partnership with civil society and ensure that their research has impact.”