Seeding impactful relationships with policymakers

Greenhouse lightbulbs


A new seed-funding initiative - which enhances connections between ANU academics and Australian policymakers - is sprouting fresh opportunities and bearing fruit.

When ANU was set up 74 years ago, one of its key pillars was to be a resource for the nation. There are countless examples of how the University has provided timely expertise and advice to policymakers through the decades.

In 2019 a new fund was set up, the ANU Policy Greenhouse Fund, which has been running as a pilot for the past 18 months, with the express purpose of encouraging academics and policymakers to work together.

Two projects are already bearing fruit - winning significant additional funding from federal and state government departments to extend and expand their policy-relevant research projects.

“Policy Greenhouse projects focus on unlocking the value of academic research and translating this into meaningful information for the policymaking community” explains Sean Innis, Director of the Public Policy & Societal Impact Hub at ANU, which administers the Fund.

“While the Fund values cross-disciplinary projects across all levels of academia, there is a particular focus on Early Career Researchers (ECRs) who benefit from this initiative through engagement activities designed to build a stronger bridge between the mid-levels of the academic and policymaking communities.” 

The Policy Greenhouse Fund aims to build direct engagement opportunities and to enhance connections between ANU academics and Australian policymakers by providing seed funding for short-and medium-term research projects with high public policy value. There are two tiers of funding: Collaboration Initiatives which run for 6 months are awarded $5,000, and Projects which run for 12 months are awarded up to $75,000.

In 2019 three Collaboration Initiatives and nine Projects were selected through a highly competitive process involving project team interviews with the independent selection committee, made up of ANU leaders with significant experience in public policy, and senior officials from the Australian Public Service, including Paul McBride (Health) and Rina Bruinsma (Finance).

The funded projects were spread across four ANU Colleges – Asia & the Pacific, Health & Medicine, Arts & Social Sciences, and Law – addressing the following topics:

  • Indigenous policy,
  • geo-economic world order,
  • disinformation campaigns,
  • armed conflict at sea,
  • service providers in the NDIS,
  • community engagement for infrastructure projects,
  • childhood poverty,
  • economic and social transformation of coal producing areas,
  • health and wellbeing in the Indian Ocean Territories,
  • e-Health innovation,
  • performance-based climate finance
  • mental health.

A full list of funded projects is available on the ANU Public Policy Hub website.


Partners & stakeholders

In late 2019 teams kicked off their respective projects with well-planned strategies and targeted deliverables, and launched into their stakeholder engagement opportunities.

Despite the major disruptions that the bushfires, hail storm and COVID-19 shutdown presented, project teams quickly revised their focus, reconnected with their stakeholders, and redirected their project funds from travel, fieldwork and face-to-face events, to engaging with their stakeholders and delivering their projects via phone and online platforms.

Project partners are spread across a variety of sectors:

  • the Australian Public Service (PM&C, Defence, DFAT, Treasury, AEC, Attorney General, Health and Infrastructure),
  • State and Territory governments, (NSW, VIC, QLD, TAS and ACT)
  • as well a number of NGO and private-sector partners including Melbourne Water, Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) and The Smith Family.


Early success

Two projects in particular have already achieved noteworthy successes since commencing in late 2019.

Significant additional funding from the Commonwealth Government has been allocated to extend and expand the Australian Policy Choices in a New Geoeconomic World Order  project, led by Professor Jane Golley (CAP), Dr Darren Lim (SPIR, CASS) & Professor Anthea Roberts (RegNet, CAP).

This project focuses on developing a robust understanding of geoeconomic developments affecting Australia and the broader global community, with a view to enhancing the government’s capacity for ‘geoeconomic policymaking’ in the challenging times ahead. The project aims to assist better informed responses and choices by government to the emerging geoeconomic order.

So far the team have conducted three extremely successful workshops with high level participants from various departments (including PM&C, Defence, DFAT & Treasury). Participants found the discussions highly useful and relevant to their work, with thought-provoking presentations and helpful discussions which clarified the different perspectives that exist across the public service.

These popular workshops ran to waitlists, and there was significant demand from other departments to convene future workshops, and to share the workshop output materials.

The team also runs the Geoeconomics Working Group series of lunch time seminars and discussions which have also been highly successful, with public servants from multiple departments attending and engaging with ANU academics.


The second project is developing A framework for best practice community engagement for major infrastructure projects: Community co-design, led by Dr Kirsty Jones & Associate Professor Sara Bice (Crawford School, CAP).

Australia is undergoing its most intensive period of infrastructure delivery. Communities are experiencing the consequent benefits and frustrations of major construction. Governments recognise that the systems in place to monitor and mitigate negative social impacts of major projects are limited. Despite such intensive delivery, few lessons are shared and the qualities of what constitutes ‘best practice’ community engagement remain vague.

“We are seeking to understand how community engagement informs and improves the delivery of major infrastructure, from roads and rail to schools and hospitals. Our research is now assisting government and industry to apply a ‘COVID-19 lens’ to infrastructure delivery, and is working to inform choices about how that infrastructure is planned and delivered.” says Sara Bice.

There is a strong need for this kind of work right now. “Infrastructure will play an important role in Australia’s COVID-19 recovery as it can deliver short-to-medium term economic stimulus while developing Australia’s intergenerational infrastructure, for which we have a $600 billion need. Our research aims to support community involvement in these decisions and to help policymakers to understand and incorporate community perspectives, especially during challenging times.”

This innovative project has been such a success that negotiations are currently underway for additional partners to contribute financially to the ‘Institute of Infrastructure in Society’ which was established to administer this project.

The team hopes to expand the development of indicators around the engagement framework, including a tool kit and score card which governments can use to monitor how projects and organisations are performing in forming consultative relationships with communities around major infrastructure projects.


Next steps

The next steps for all twelve Policy Greenhouse project teams will be to progress their individual projects, expand on engagement opportunities, and translate their research into high policy value.

The Hub will work to build bridges between the project teams and the policymaking community, and help the project teams to develop Policy Briefs which the external project partners can use as a tool to turn their research into potential policy outcomes and drivers.

A full list of funded projects is available on the ANU Public Policy Hub website.

About this site Updated:  4 March 2019/Responsible Officer:  Engagement Manager/Page Contact:  Engagement Manager