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Dr Poornika Ananth and policy engagement

Poornika is currently undertaking a secondment with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) using her research to inform policy.

Poornika Ananth next to a web of graphics demonstrating her research and engagement activities
Poornika Ananth has been actively involved in policy engagement

Dr Poornika Ananth is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the School of Management. She is currently undertaking a part-time placement with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) where she is conducting research using a creativity and innovation perspective to inform policy on safer and greener architecture and building design.

Tell us about your research and expertise

"I am at the School of Management within the Strategy and Organisation Division. In my research I focus on understanding work that strives towards novelty and grapples with complexity. The academic community that I primarily speak to and situate myself in is a community of researchers who study creativity.

"I am a qualitative researcher by background, so what I typically enjoy doing is going out into research contexts, speaking to people and trying to develop an understanding of work that is complex and creative from the perspective of the people that are doing it."

How is your work relevant to policymakers?

"I have spent several years conducting research with architects in the built environment context. I found that architecture and construction in the built environment is a context where creativity and complexity come into play, but it also is critically tied to housing; an issue so critical to the everyday lives of people and the country as a whole.

"I felt there was an opportunity for me to bring in insights and perspectives from the creativity literature into how we are thinking about housing and the tensions between, for example, wellbeing and supply. This is a particularly hot topic at the moment given the housing crisis, and there are so many challenges around that, including the environment — for example, how do we supply housing in a manner that doesn’t degrade the natural environment, that is safe, and that prioritises wellbeing?"

For further information see: Communicating research for policy audiences

How have you engaged policy professionals with your research?

"When I began to think that my research could have implications for policy, I started looking for opportunities to engage with policymakers, and two arose at a similar time.

"Last year, I had the chance to engage with the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) to deliver a talk at one of their breakfast meetings about sustainability in the creative industries. This was attended by other academics, but primarily policymakers and practitioners. The goal was to get insights from academia on that topic that could be useful to policymakers. I also wrote a blog post for them shortly after.

"The second was a part-time secondment with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) which came up as I was looking at a different grant opportunity. As part of the secondment I work with DLUHC for one day a week over the course of six months, alongside my substantive role here at Bath."

Also see: Academic policy fellowships and placements

What methods of engagement have been most successful?

"I am now mid-way through my secondment, having started towards the end of January 2024. The goal is to conduct a small research project by the end of the six months, which will inform policymakers and potentially feed into a presentation or report – we are keeping our options open as to what the output looks like."

What have you learnt about the process of policy engagement?

"Consensus and inputs from different teams are vitally important. So, the most valuable thing to me has been shifting my mindset from thinking of my research as a sole project to one which I am leading but where I draw from multiple resources and partner with others in the department to build it up and move it forward.

"It’s those networks you build, learning the importance of reaching out, knowing how to use them, but also knowing that they want to support you because there is a real collective aspect to doing policy research, which I hadn’t realised previously.

"It has also been important to put certain safeguards in place because, when you’re doing work with government, it is easy for things to become political and you need to be extremely sensitive to those aspects."

Also see: Stakeholder mapping

What advice would you give others?

  • Flexibility is key. As researchers we often try to follow things that are most interesting rather than where our skills are necessarily best used. It is important to be open to shifting inputs and focusing on what the policy priorities are — also recognising what people already know or are not really concerned about knowing at that moment in time.
  • Sometimes working with policymakers may involve compromising novelty. Of course you want to learn something new, to fill a gap, but sometimes those things can be smaller. Policy research may also be about the verification and validation of evidence as opposed to being something completely new. So, you may not be working to shift perspectives or knowledge, but to confirm them.
‘The most valuable thing to me has been shifting my mindset.’
Dr Poornika Ananth Lecturer, School of Management

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