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organic policy sociology

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Diana Graizbord has a really fascinating article in Sociology Compass about sociology and policy. Here is the abstract:

According to many, sociology is facing a crisis of relevance. Of particular concern is sociology’s inability to impact policy. Sociologists, who should be the go‐to on major policy issues have been sidelined as other social scientists take up roles as policy advisors. Recent efforts aimed at encouraging public engagement have focused on disseminating research and producing more policy‐relevant knowledge. These are welcome resources, but they reflect a deep ambivalence toward policy sociology and a tendency to conflate participation in public discussions with policy impact. In contrast, this essay draws on recent findings about the power of policy experts to develop an organic policy sociology. Organic policy sociology depends on co‐designing and carrying out research with policymakers with whom we share critical and professional commitments. By working collaboratively with policymakers, sociologists can foster equity‐promoting policy, change how policymakers understand social problems, and improve how citizens experience policy on the ground. To that end, I offer six orienting strategies for developing and maintaining organic policy sociology projects, from finding the right partner to assessing the impact of our work.

This article completely nails a major point: sociologists don’t have a “place” for their work. In other words, peer reviewers may demand endless “policy implications” in papers but there are not that many actual policy makers who care about or want sociology. Of course, this can be fixed, but it will require a lot of work on our part. We need to put in the work to make this happen.

Earlier this year, I complained that sociologists don’t put enough effort into building bridges to the policy world. This article is a step in the right direction. So what are the next steps? 1. Curriculum – sociology programs should have some built in training for policy work. 2. Bridges – create organizations that routinely link sociology and the policy world. 3. Outreach – Waiting for the NY Times to pick your op ed is nice, but certainly not a reliable way to do things. 4. Hiring – allow people who have fewer pubs but more applied experience back into soc programs.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 25, 2019 at 12:25 am

Posted in uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Thanks! I couldn’t agree more about next steps. I’ve been teaching a class modeled on the experience I talk about in the paper for a few years, but I think institutionalizing policy work curriculum is key. The hiring and evaluation piece is sooooo important. This sort of policy work is either ignored or seen as a distraction when we’re evaluated for P&T. Making it count and hiring people whose experience and strength is in applied work seems like an obvious way to increase our relevance and encourage public and policy sociology across domains.

    Liked by 1 person

    Diana Graizbord

    November 27, 2019 at 2:34 pm


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