Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 September 2022
Over the past decade or more, we have constructed our individual and joint research projects to create spaces for deep engagement with policy actors who want to do things differently. We work closely and sympathetically with policy makers, politicians and citizens, who are willing to work with us. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of these turn out to be sensitive, thoughtful human beings who are committed to behaving as ethically as possible in the service of good policy. Dark things do happen, established interests can drive decisions, but mostly there are just people muddling through trying to do the best for citizens, customers, users and colleagues. If at any point in this book, we have fallen prey to easy caricatures then this is not our intention or true perspective.
Our preferred mode is to work collaboratively and hands-on where we can. This book comes out of our respect for colleagues in central and local government, local public services, and in third sector organisations. Managing complex sets of issues, people and practices is tough, and anyone who suggests they could do better is at risk of foolishness without very careful thought about how the whole thing might actually work. Carping from the sidelines is not helpful; our efforts aim to be constructive even when being critical. While some of our schemes and suggestions may look unwarrantedly foolhardy at first glance, innovation requires some degree of targeted and strategic risk-taking. Our admiration goes to all those represented in this book and others not here engaged in co-production who have had the nerve to lead and experiment.
In our own organisations in higher education, we are exposed to similar pressures and tensions, organisational stubbornness and resistance to change, politicking, and the responsibilities of leadership. While we attempt in this book to apply co-productive approaches to our research practice, we are at a much earlier stage in attempts to apply similar principles and methods more broadly within universities. So far, our efforts have been focused outwards, showing us the gritty realities of public policy work – albeit for intense bursts. Change is a mammoth task and we are under no illusions about the dangers, and potential for serious mishaps.
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