Almost five years ago the Sydney Policy Lab was founded to address complex policy problems and build collaborations between researchers, policymakers, campaigners, government, media and industry to make Australia a better and fairer place.
Since Dr Kate Harrison Brennan joined the Lab as Director in August 2022, the team has hosted conversations with many of the Lab’s collaborators to collectively set the direction for the upcoming period of 2023-2025.
The resulting strategic focus reflects their feedback and input. Several core priorities are set out here, and the full strategic direction can be read here.
The Lab’s prime focus is on and with community
Unexpected shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the dramatic acceleration of climate change, have affected communities across Australia and demonstrate that community building is becoming ever more important.
The Lab’s work will reflect this, by being a place of of civic dialogue that welcomes those who tend to be excluded from power, and for building relationships with and between people from diverse backgrounds to encourage greater empathy and understanding. Relationship precedes action and diverse thinking leads to better solutions.
We aim to become collaborative leaders, known for the success of our research and community-led policy design. The University is uniquely positioned to host such a Lab – a space within civil society to bring people together and to enable problem solving to address some of greatest shared challenges.
The best thing about a Sandstone University is that they’re porous. They are in their element when enabling connections between people and the flow of expertise and ideas.
A multi-disciplinary policy laboratory to strengthen community and achieve progress for the common good
We want to influence policy development and reshape the conventional ways in which it is developed.
We seek to become a true policy ‘laboratory’ – a space that brings together diverse perspectives and experimental methodologies to investigate complex policy issues. We will relish the opportunity to try out new ideas and new ways of being together to move from listening to action and sustain deep collaborations.
We will work in collaboration with First Nations peoples and our work will be informed by the rich forms of knowledge that have governed this land for thousands of years. In this and other ways, our work will take into account the everyday and historically-derived power imbalances that exist within our society.
Our policy work will continue to focus on the issues of greatest immediate and long-term consequence for our communities
We are unafraid to address the most immediate, pressing and politically contested issues of the day, but we will do so in ways that focus on what really matters.
We therefore intend to redouble our efforts in our current areas of research and practice: climate change and a just transition to a low-carbon world; the forging of a new narrative and ethical framework for the care economy; and ‘people and democracy’, encompassing civil society and the Covid-19 pandemic as well as issues or migration and forced migration.
We will be purposeful about the pace at which we work
We aim at considered solutions that actually work and believe the methods we employ are as important as the policies we jointly create.
Our policy development will be based on methodical, community-led work that addresses the full complexity of problems and focuses on providing answers that are clear and capable of timely and practical response. Both the relationships and collaborations, as well as knowledge and strategy needed for this kind of success take time to develop and grow in strength.
Effective policy development, which requires knowledge gained from experience, takes time. Quick fixes seldom work and ultimately waste even more valuable time.
What is most urgently needed is the ability to work together at a human pace that allows the proper consideration of practical knowledge and the participation of a diversity of voices. Rushed policies, narrowly conceived and informed, seldom work.
From listening to action
In five years, we want the Lab to be initiating and sustaining the sorts of relationships, conversations and collaborations needed to address the challenges of our times.
In the coming year, we will be broadening our collaborations and testing our approach to see just how well we can realise this vision for the Lab.
We ask you to join us in this exciting collaborative undertaking for the common good, and to think about who is not yet taking part of the conversation who should be.