Areas of work, specialisms and alternatives

Policy research

22 Jun 2023, 13:19

Charity and voluntary sector careers for graduates: policy research.

Professionals collaborating at a table with laptops and documents, indicating a research or policy planning session.

Policy research/development contributes hugely to the overall professional and strategic nature of a charity. The focus of the job is for thorough scientific research and analysis to be used to inform policy decisions and to influence the direction a charitable organisation will take: which services are offered, how budgets are spent, or the best use of resources. Some of the main tasks are:

  • Reviewing international standards and initiatives
  • Preparing and writing reports
  • Researching proposed legislation (government white papers etc)
  • Identifying decision makers at a local and international level
  • Lobbying
  • Staying abreast of political developments and public opinion
  • Responding to research enquiries from colleagues, government departments, academics and other development agencies
  • Delivering presentations at conferences
  • Dealing with the media, eg explaining the focus of the charity and the reasoning behind a particular initiative.

People working in policy development or research in a charity or not-for-profit organisation often come from a background in economic research, statistics or international aid/development. You will need skills in quantitative and qualitative research techniques, along with the ability to think strategically with a long-term vision.Usually people working in this area attend international conferences and training courses as part of their role and a postgraduate qualification is very often required for career progression.

Policy jobs are usually paid roles within a charitable organisation. However, they are hard to find: usually only larger charities will employ people to work in this area as they are a significant cost to the organisation and are not income generating. With experience, you can get work in state organisations such as economic research institutes, government think tanks and within the wider public sector; these are usually better-paid roles.

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