This blog post is co-authored by Sabrina Basran, a former Research Officer at the City of London Corporation, and Gareth Reilly, who has recently joined the City of London Corporation as a graduate trainee.
The case for using well informed and well-rounded data within the policy process is, arguably, one of common sense, yet at times common sense doesn’t prevail. On many occasions data is used in the wrong way or insufficiently; not enough is taken into consideration for a proper informed policy to be formed.
Using data within policymaking can contribute to its efficacy in several ways: accurate information can help define the issue which the policy is trying to resolve and it allows the scope to be narrowed to focus on specific areas, which in turn allows targeted options to be formed on how best to take the policy forward. Robust and informed data is always likely to help policymakers make accurate predictions about what impact the changes will have once implemented as well as acting as a point of referral for future work, in order to evaluate a policy’s success or failure.
Accurate data can also help increase the longevity of a policy. Whilst numbers and statistics are constantly changing, research can, if well thought-out, be used to shape policy in such a way that it is effectual in the longer term. One prime example of this is the work which was carried out on Growing the Social Investment Market. Not only did the research assess the existing market, but it also carried out an economic impact assessment for the first time providing new, detailed baseline information on the market which has since helped act as guideline for policy considerations as well as contributing to the formation of the Social Investment Research Council.
As a recent graduate trainee joining the Economic Development Office I hope to be able to make a worthwhile contribution to the research process and potentially the policy making process. As such, it is paramount that I practice what I preach and ensure that the data I use is of the best quality and the most relevant to the topic at hand.
It’s always exciting to have somebody new in a team, and to hear a fresh perspective on how research can be used, to help ensure that the Corporation’s programme remains relevant. It’s my personal view that it is essential for any practical initiative or public policy to be evidence-based, in order to be effective. Gareth’s comments echo this, though he also raises the important point that there needs to be careful consideration from the research side, to ensure the right data is used.
The Corporation plays a key role in supporting and promoting London as a leading international financial and business centre and the encompassing aspects of this – from helping local communities to improving the City and London’s attractiveness to businesses and visitors, to enhancing the capital’s position as a cultural hub. It is paramount then for the Corporation to use a well-researched, factual and evidence-based approach to dealing with key policy decisions in order to best serve not only the City, but London more widely and the UK as a whole.
To enable us to do so, our economic research programme spans a variety and range of topics – competitiveness, the UK economy, the EU and regulation, infrastructure, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and London communities to name a few – with each topic underpinning and helping to inform the Corporation’s policy priorities and strategic areas of focus.
There are a number of examples where we have used research to achieve policy objectives:
- A paper exploring the threats facing London’s trees in the form of new and emerging pests and diseases – this helped to secure £1.5 million in Government funding for a project to fight oak processionary moth.
- Identifying and assessing good practice examples of employee health and well-being programmes amongst large firms based in the Square Mile to act as a benchmark for companies looking to support their employees and be used as a basis for engagement with firms starting on their employee health journey, as reflected at the report’s launch at the ‘Business Healthy’ conference.
- Presenting a rationale and justification for a tax relief for investors in social enterprises – this report, co-commissioned with Big Society Capital, informed Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of a social investment tax relief in the 2013 Budget.
While by no means perfect, these examples help to demonstrate the value that can be achieved, when we get the right information to the right people in the right way. If there’s one thing I hope to take away from my time at the Corporation, it is this.