Engaging with local government

As a general rule of thumb, central and devolved government develops policy, and local government implements it. If your research has implications for policy impact or implementation, therefore, a local body may be a good organisation to work with.

Additionally, with the arrival of regional devolution, local bodies are increasingly taking on some of the policy development powers of Westminster, so you may also want to consider working with a local body if your issue falls under the new regional devolution settlements – and it’s worth remembering that the power of local bodies is set to increase still further. 

There are additional reasons why you might consider engaging with local rather than national policymakers: 

  • Local councillors and officers know about the issues facing their communities in a detailed way that national policymakers simply can’t.
  • Because the councillors and officers who develop local policies are also the people who implement then, they know what works and what doesn’t in their region.
  • Local bodies are accustomed to working in partnership with multiple stakeholders.
  • They will have a network of close working relationships with their local stakeholders which you may be able to draw on.
  • Because you’ll be engaging on issues that affect a specific region, city, or even a neighbourhood, tracking and measuring impact is easier. Scales are smaller, and policy more targeted.

This section considers:

Recent changes in the local government landscape
How to engage and who to contact

You might also want to look at the case study 'Imagining Belfast': Civic culture and identity, which described how Professor Sean Connolly and Dr Dominic Bryan worked with the Belfast City Council to help reframe policy around Belfast's cultural and religious identities and public displays.