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Public Policy|Southampton

A secondment to the Cabinet Office

Justyna (Jonak) Lisinska, doctoral researcher in Web Science, ECS
Justyna (Jonak) Lisinska, doctoral researcher in Web Science, ECS

I joined the Cabinet Office in January for a three-month secondment, working as a policy advisor in the Open Innovation Team. 


Open Innovation Team 


Open Innovation Team (OIT) is a team in Whitehall that connects academics to policymakers to deepen collaborations. However, finding the top experts is only a small part of the job. Very often, even to get to this stage, there is a lot of work to be done in narrowing down the topic or figuring out the deliverable objectives by reading and digesting a lot of material. It is also our job to know the subject well enough to be able to provide policy advice and write recommendations for different departments. 


From day one, I was warmly welcomed by the team. I had a designated line manager who was actively ensuring I am getting the best out of the placement. My line manager was often pushing me out of my comfort zone, welcoming my ideas and inputs and advising how I could put them into practice.


The OIT is unique in their own sense, and there is something special about people that are in the team. Having previously worked in the government, I sort of knew the Civil Service values. However, apart from standard behaviour expected from the Civil Servants, the OIT created their own excellent working culture with everyone being friendly, open and supportive. I remember my shock when Chris Webber (the head of the team) would chat to you as a friend. He would always listen and welcome your ideas, despite your very junior position! If I were asked what I did not like about my secondment at the Cabinet Office, I would say – having had to leave! 


Working in the government  


My work varied during the placement, and I worked on a variety of different projects. Still, there is one project that particularly stuck in my mind. I worked with my manager on the project where we interviewed international experts on a complex problem. Although most of the time, I felt I was out of my comfort zone, the report that we produced was later described as a benchmark of what others should strive for. Suffice it to say, my confidence skyrocketed after this experience. But more importantly, I learned a lot about how to present complex issues in a consumable way. 


There is also a lesson for all of us in academia. Having spent a lot of time looking for the greatest researchers and minds in their respective fields, I have found that not nearly enough of them make their research and their profiles easy to find. If we want to have a positive impact on the world and government policies, we need to focus not only on the quality of our work. We also need to make it accessible to policymakers around the world. 

I would certainly recommend everyone to undertake an internship during their PhD. I had a great time learning new skills, as well as applying those that I currently have. I would like to especially thank the OIT for welcoming me in their team, being friendly and supportive. I would like to also thank you Policy|Southampton for this opportunity.



Justyna (Jonak) Lisinska is a doctoral researcher in Web Science and based at the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. She also leads a team of Digital Champions at the University of Southampton.

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