A major new public policy initiative, PolicyWISE, is being developed by The Open University (OU). PolicyWISE will be the UK's first network of academics and civil servants to explicitly address comparative public policy research and knowledge exchange across the four nations of the UK and Ireland.
Working across the nations will enable PolicyWISE to take a deliberately comparative approach to public policy-making in a post-devolution, post-Brexit UK.
The OU has been awarded £1m in funding from Dangoor Education to establish PolicyWISE. The funding will support the launch of PolicyWISE in 2023 and its development over the following four years.
Partners from Cardiff University, Trinity College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast, The University of Edinburgh and University College London are on board to help shape its development.
An initial series of workshops with policymakers, civil servants and academics from across the nations has already explored the differences and commonalities in public policy across themes such as violence against women and girls; mental health; post-Covid educational inequalities; children and young people's health and net zero.
Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Professor Tim Blackman, said: “PolicyWISE will bring together policy makers and policy influencers from the four nations of the UK and Ireland to examine key societal challenges post-devolution and post-Brexit. As public policy creation becomes more diverged, PolicyWISE will give people the opportunity to gather insights, key learnings and best practice from across the nations.”
PolicyWISE builds too from the OU’s research strategy – focused on tackling societal challenges locally and globally, through influencing and shaping outcomes that have real impact.
Louise Casella, Director of the OU in Wales, who has led the development of PolicyWISE, said: "We're delighted to receive significant funding from Dangoor Education which recognises the exciting potential of PolicyWISE and the OU's four nations experience to deliver comparative insights."
"Uniquely, as a university of four nations which also operates in Ireland, we are strongly placed to act as the nexus of this initiative and bring together partners to deliver comparative insights. We want to draw on the strengths across our nations to help create better public policy that really makes a difference to the lives of people and to communities."
John D’Arcy, Director of the OU in Ireland added: “I am delighted that the discussions are involving academics and policy makers from across Ireland as well from England, Scotland and Wales. This collaboration offers a unique opportunity to discuss common issues and to learn from challenges and solutions in different jurisdictions to improve people’s lives.
“I look forward to seeing how the outputs can be used to develop comparative public policy research, engaging policy makers and funders in the future.”