From January to April 2021, DTP student Aimee Morse (Environmental Planning, University of Gloucestershire) undertook an internship with the Wales Centre for Public Policy, working on a project entitled ‘Collaboration and policy implementation at the local level in Wales: a case-study evaluation of a farmer group in North Wales’. Here are Aimee’s reflections on the experience.
This internship aimed to evaluate how a participatory approach to the design of collaborative, sustainable land management practices could prepare farmers for changes in the sector. Following the UK’s exit from the EU, agricultural policy is undergoing a period of significant change. The Welsh Government is working on the design of a Sustainable Farming Scheme which will support farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices, with a focus on payment for the production of public goods. During the internship I worked with a farmer-led group in North Wales in receipt of funding from Welsh Government’s Sustainable Management Scheme to understand how they generated experiential evidence of best practice and delivered environmental, social and cultural benefits to their local area. I interviewed 4 farmers, the group’s project manager and 3 project partners to discover how they had worked together on their application and in the implementation of more sustainable practices.
My aim was to gain an understanding of the agricultural policy situation in Wales so I can compare it to my findings from research I have carried out in England. This involved conducting semi-structured interviews with farmers in north Wales. I was aware the internship would be taking place virtually, thus I had prepared to work remotely for the duration and had discussed access to the required IT systems prior to my start date.
Given I had had chance to prepare to undertake the internship remotely, I was able to meet the aims of my original project. The group with whom I worked were accommodating and 4 of their members were more than happy to have a telephone interview. Their project manager provided great support throughout the process. The support provided by the WCPP was fantastic. Despite never having set foot in their office, the team ensured I was treated as one of them from day one, inviting me to meetings and setting up one-to-ones so I could get to know people. I am grateful for the warm welcome and the guidance of my supervisor and the Research Team throughout my placement.
Findings from this project will be communicated in a project report, policy briefing and a blog post on the topic. Further outputs include a blog post on my internship experience and a podcast based on the Rural Wales Vision. The outputs will be made available at wcpp.org.uk in June.
I am still in touch with my WCPP supervisor and we will be discussing how the work I completed at the Centre can be incorporated into my PhD. The internship has been an opportunity to develop my thinking for my PhD more generally; I now have more of an appreciation of the policy-making process and associated literatures. This is something I had not touched upon in great detail in my PhD research to date; however, I now recognise how important it is to be aware and up to date on policy changes and the frameworks used for decision-making during this time of agricultural policy change.
Working with the Research Team allowed me to think about how I might apply my current competencies in a new team. I feel more confident in planning and delivering on short-term projects and in sharing my work with a wider audience. I’ve had time to develop several key skills during my internship and look forward to applying them as I continue my PhD research.
The internship gave me insight into the fields of policy and evidence. I am more aware of the positions on offer in government and NGOs which relate to policy research and advice, and this may be something I consider once I have completed my PhD.
Overall, I had a very good internship experience and there is not much which comes to mind regarding improvements! There was always good support and communication throughout, both relating to my project and the Centre’s wider work. I found the Centre’s use of Teams for conversations and updates fantastic, too. As my supervisor and I have already discussed, a meeting earlier in the internship to discuss outputs and formatting will be useful for future interns.
Undertaking the internship was a great experience, and one which I would highly recommend to those considering applying. Speaking to your potential supervisor before applying will help you develop your application and discover whether there is scope for the project you are proposing. It is a great opportunity to further develop your skills and work on some extra PhD outputs.