Social Sciences and Policy Impact: The Case for a Participatory Approach

Book Title: 
Social Science and Policy Challenges - Democracy, Values and Capacities
Publication Year: 
Publication Place: 
UNESCO Publishing

This chapter argues that the social sciences should not only seek to have an instrumental impact on society. Rather they should try to develop as much as possible ‘generative powers’ to advance and explore new social icons about society. In doing so, they should empower people to live their lives as ‘well-informed citizens’. Social sciences should first of all be regarded as local practices aimed at introducing change at the local level. Next, there is also room for more indirect contributions to change, through the active dissemination of knowledge. For this, the social sciences need to put more focus on knowledge-brokering and participatory approaches. The first section of the chapter discusses two classical models of knowledge transfer, the limestone model and the engineering model, and relates them to a user perspective where the user is either an expert or a citizen. The second section focuses on how knowledge brokerage could increase the impact of social sciences. Finally, the chapter presents participatory methods as tools for increasing the impact of the social sciences in a non-instrumental way.

Knowledge; Policy making; Social policy; Social research; Social sciences