Co-producing an evidence-based toolkit for financial resilience: translating ideas across practitioner and academic communities

Dom, B.K. ORCID: 0000-0002-0889-2571, Lino, A. and Steccolini, I., 2023. Co-producing an evidence-based toolkit for financial resilience: translating ideas across practitioner and academic communities. In: International Research Society for Public Management, Budapest, Hungary, 03-05 April 2023.

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The academic-practitioner gap is a long-standing issue in public administration, as noted for more than 50 years by Waldo (1965). Over the years, attempts have been made to identify reasons for this gap, which include a lack of agreement and ambiguity between academic scholars’ research outputs and practitioners’ organisational practices (Orr and Bennett, 2009), concerns about rigour and relevance (Schön, 1991; Antonacopoulou, 2010; Cepiku, 2011), or a preference for short-term over long-term time orientation (Buick et al., 2015). This attracted the attention of interested scholars to discover possible ways to bridge the gap. Orr and Bennett (2012) and Cepiku (2011) emphasised the need to engage in “co-production” among researchers and practitioners, a process of research where both parties collaborate to achieve negotiated objectives – ultimately leading to “full partnerships with a high degree of interaction” (Buick et al., 2015, p. 37).

Borrowing the concept of “translation of ideas” from the Scandinavian institutionalism, we argue there is a transfer of ideas between the academic and practitioner worlds (or organisational fields), as different actors translate such ideas to fit their needs (Wedlin and Sahlin, 2017). It means that public organisations and their members are not simply passive recipients of academic scholarship discourses, but actively transform the concepts raised by scholars into meaningful practices embedded in their daily organisational routines – including the technological aspects that turn ideas into practice (Sahlin & Wedlin, 2008). The same applies to scholars who translate ideas that emerge from the organisational practice field into new research objectives. By framing the academic-practitioner gap as an issue of “translation”, including its discursive, operational, and technological aspects, we aim to answer calls from the literature on better understanding the mechanisms through which we can make the work of PA scholars more useful for practitioners (Bushouse et al., 2011).

This paper analyses the translation of ideas between academia and practice on the co-production of an evidence-based toolkit for local governments. As known, the co-production of knowledge works better when there is a clear and common purpose between academics and practitioners (Buick et al., 2015). Thus, our toolkit focuses on the financial resilience of local governments – which has been a matter of concern and topic for debate among practitioners in the last few decades. Local governments were challenged to continue improving service delivery amidst reduced financial resources and increased demand for services.

The toolkit aims to translate Barbera et al. (2015; 2017) financial resilience framework to the local governments’ operational routines. We relied on (i) surveys, (ii) focus groups (round table discussions), and (iii) interviews that were used to feedback into and co-produce the financial resilience toolkit for UK LAs. Each of these steps is linked to the editing rules identified by Sahlin-Andersson (1996): formulation, logic and context. Our findings point out how the cooperation between academics and practitioners led to the development of an online-based toolkit that exceeded the initial foreseen uses of the toolkit as compared to the initial design solely by academics – i.e., the toolkit become a legitimate solution to different problems (logic) when framed on the right way (formulation) and respecting the local settings specific needs (context).

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Dom, B.K., Lino, A. and Steccolini, I.
Date: April 2023
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 17 Apr 2023 10:19
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2023 10:19

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