Using Policy Labs as a process to bring evidence closer to public policymaking: a guide to one approach

Saba Hinrichs-Krapels*, Jocelyn Bailey, Harriet Boulding, Bobby Duffy, Rachel Hesketh, Emma Kinloch, Alexandra Pollitt, Sarah Rawlings, Armida van Rij, Benedict Wilkinson, Ross Pow, Jonathan Grant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


While robust evidence is one ingredient in the policymaking process, it is by no means the only one. Engaging with policymakers and the policymaking process requires collaborative working models, navigating through the experiences, values and perspectives of policymakers and other stakeholders, as well as communicating evidence in an accessible manner. As a response to these requirements, over recent years there has been proliferation of activities that engage producers of evidence (specifically, academics), policymakers, practitioners, and the public in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. In this article, we describe one engagement approach for facilitating research evidence uptake into policy and practice—an activity called a ‘Policy Lab’—as conducted by the team at The Policy Institute at King’s College London on numerous policy challenges over the past four years. Drawing on our experience in running 15 Policy Labs between January 2015 and September 2019, we (a) provide a guide to how we have run Policy Labs, while sharing our learning on what has worked best in conducting them and (b) demonstrate how these labs can contribute to bringing evidence closer to policymaking, by comparing their characteristics to enablers for doing so identified in the literature. While this approach to Policy Labs is not the only one of its kind, we suggest that these types of Labs manifest characteristics identified in previous studies for influencing the policymaking process; namely: providing a forum for open, honest conversations around a policy topic; creating new networks, collaborations and partnerships between academics and policymakers; synthesising available evidence on a policy topic in a robust and accessible format; and providing timely access to evidence relevant to a policy issue. We recognise the limitations of measuring and evaluating how these Labs change policy in the long-term and recommend viewing the Policy Lab as part of a process for engaging evidence and policymaking and not an isolated activity. This process serves to build a coalition through participation of diverse communities (thereby establishing ‘trust’), work on the language and presentation of evidence (thereby enabling effective ‘translation’ of evidence) and engage policymakers early to respond when policy windows emerge (thereby taking into account ‘timing’ for creating policy action).

Original languageEnglish
Article number101
JournalPalgrave Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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