In recent years, Australian non-government human service organisations have increasingly allocated resources to policy research through the establishment of policy research units or policy research positions. This development signals a further way in which the role of NGOs in Australia has broadened, in addition to increasing their activities as welfare service providers and advocates for social change, they are increasingly involved in the production of knowledge for social policy development.

Researching the researchers reports on a study of policy research activities in the non-government human services sector. Undertaken in 2010, the study identified over 50 human service NGOs across Australia that had policy research units or policy research positions. The study involved a detailed survey of 27 policy researchers located in 21 of these organisations, and the focused questioning of 8 policy researchers who provide commentary on key survey findings.

Researching the researchers sheds light on the nature and scope of NGO policy research, including the types of NGOs that undertake policy research; the key areas researched; the research methods and research dissemination processes used; and the levels of organisational support and resources provided for policy research. The report also captures policy researchers’ perceptions of the drivers for the growth of policy research and their perceptions of the factors that enable and constrain the impact of their research on policy development. It is hoped that the data presented and the discussion of the findings will be of interest to those concerned with the relationship between NGO research and policy development and with the role of NGOs in contemporary social policy knowledge production.

The report is divided into three parts:

  • Part One provides the background to the study and an overview of the study
  • Part Two provides a description of NGO policy research activities and research capacity and;
  • Part Three is concerned with themes and issues about the contemporary role of NGO policy research in knowledge production.

In reporting the research we have included responses from survey participants, some of whom also provided responses to focused questions on the survey data. We refer to this subset of participants as ‘researcher commentators’.

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