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Our approach

Creating research and action for change
The best new knowledge emerges when people connect across difference, not when we remain separate from one another. Deep, intentional and enduring relationships are fundamental to changing our world.

The relational method

At the Sydney Policy Lab, we put the relationships first.

We never assume that our researchers already know everything we need to know about a problem to make a useful contribution. Rather, we seek to understand challenges from multiple perspectives, listening to the ideas and opinions of practitioners, policymakers, community groups and the broader public alike. For us, this is the only way to build truly new knowledge, creating multi-interest, multi-disciplinary solutions from the ground up.

We call this approach “the relational method”.

Developed from the long tradition of community organising that originated in the United States and from more recent methodologies of co-design, co-production, collaborative ethnography and participatory action research, we deploy practical tools including relational meetings, power analysis, the organising cycle, and concepts of action and evaluation that are easily applied but have far-reaching effects.

We also train others in how to use these techniques.

  • Our LabClasses and University of Sydney training programs teach core elements of the relational method as it applies to research and the culture of our university
  • Our bespoke trainings bring a focus on relationships and shared knowledge to the civil society, public and private sectors
  • Our research projects exemplify the relational method, from defining research questions in close collaboration with institutional partners, to strategising alongside partners to put research findings into practice and create change
  • Our publications, talks, podcasts and media engagement demonstrate how the relational method has been put into practice and make our work accessible to the broader public.