A key element of the Cambridge MPP is the placement project that each student undertakes to bring together all of the academic and professional development work of the course. These are based on four to six weeks on site with a policy actor, for example in central government, with a think tank or an NGO, followed by another 10 weeks of research and writing to produce a policy recommendation paper on a live issue for the organisation they have been working with.
Below are some quick reflections from some of this year’s MPP cohort as they transition from the on-site portion of the placement back to Cambridge for the Easter term. I hope it gives a sense of the breadth of work our students get to address and how the course transitions from the classroom to the real world. As ever our sincere thanks to all of the organisations who provide us with placements and such challenging problems.
For five weeks over the Easter break, I completed a work placement with the Behavioural Insights Team in London. This was the first part of a 14-week placement working on a project examining behavioural biases in project management decision-making in the civil service. There is a real push to integrate behavioural economics into policy-making – both in the UK and back home in Australia – and I thought this placement would be an excellent opportunity to develop a solid understanding of behavioural sciences and how it can be applied to solve policy problems. And I wasn’t disappointed. The placement was a terrific opportunity to put into practice what I had learnt at Cambridge to date, while also gaining new knowledge and skills that I wouldn’t have been able to pick up from completing coursework alone. I really valued the opportunity to undertake a placement with BIT and I’m confident that I’ve developed new skills that will be useful in my future career in policy.
During Easter vacation, I was staffed with the Social Investment and Finance Team (SIFT) at the UK Cabinet Office. My task was to consider whether a blended fund (e.g., a fund that brings together diverse categories of investors with different levels of risk tolerance) could be used to support organizations that used sport as a means of producing socially beneficial outcomes, such as improved employment results or increased community cohesion. I was based in Westminster, and I had considerable access to senior leaders at a number of social investment firms, frontline organizations and other key stakeholder groups. Our conversations have given me tremendous insight into how the Sport for Development sector has evolved over the last decade and what can be done to bolster growth in the space. My final product will include presentations to Cabinet Office staff, partners at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and a roundtable with the Sports and Recreation Alliance, one of the UK’s largest sports advocacy organizations.
The research placement at RAND Europe opened up two new worlds to me.
First, the world of think tanks. I learned about how they operate, their methodologies and their objectives. Second, the world of the UN and cybersecurity. My mission was to assess the impact of the UN’s Group of Governmental Experts on developing norms for international security in cyberspace. It meant I needed to learn about foreign policy, international law, and the academic theories around norm development. I then had to overlay cybersecurity onto this, which presents its own challenges due to the unique attributes of cyberspace resulting in the problems of attribution, jurisdiction and dual-use to name just a few. I was lucky enough to interview influential people in the field and learn from experts at RAND in order to produce my report. Overall, a brilliant experience and I’m looking forward to writing up and sharing my recommendations.
As an interim policy advisor at the Centre for Social Impact Bonds within the Social Investment and Finance Team of the Cabinet Office, I assisted in the implementation of the Prime Minister’s Life Chances Strategy. My responsibilities entailed: reviewing reports and statistics on existing provisions for pupils with special educational needs; consulting stakeholders to identify gaps; and collaborating with DfE, DWP, DCLG, BIS, and Treasury on the development of a social impact bond to address these gaps. I also met with potential donors, investors, commissioners, and service providers to gauge interest. I have developed a proposal which is both feasible and enjoys departmental support and am currently fine-tuning it for presentation to the department directors.
Jointly supervised by the Director of Economic and Business Policy and the Demography and Policy Analysis Manager at the Greater London Authority (GLA), I joined the team shortly after the release of London’s City Data Strategy. My role was to help advance the Strategy by researching what eight leading cities were doing in the open data domain. I conducted interviews with technology officials in many of the cities and will be producing a report recommending which aspects of other cities’ open data approaches could be beneficial for London.
I have been working at the Behavioural Insights Team, as part of the Health and Tax team. My main duty has been to provide research support to two projects: one which seeks to reduce non-urgent attendances at A&E by children with fever, and another which is trialling ways to increase the awareness and use of the NHS’ patient choice policy. As part of this work, I have embarked on field visits to hospitals and GP practices in London, Southampton and Barking. I have also been involved in other bits and bobs, including attending an All-Party Parliamentary Group hearing on e-Cigarettes at the House of Commons and rolling out a food labelling trial at York Hospital.
My placement was at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and focused on next generation digital infrastructure. The main questions I am tackling include: what are the demand needs for very high-speed and reliable broadband, where will the digital infrastructure market independently get to by 2020, what barriers are hindering further market development and what can the government feasibly do to alleviate these barriers? My project sits at the cutting edge of policy and industry and has given me a fascinating insight into how the two interrelate. I have had the opportunity to meet with representatives of forward-thinking technology companies and experienced policy-makers from across government, and am greatly enjoying the process of coming up with policy solutions that will hopefully inform the future government digital strategy.