Skip to main content Skip to footer

Fancy a game of cards? Using policy cards to translate research into impact

⌚ Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Have you ever thought that playing cards could help your policy engagement? Academics from our CAPE partner Nottingham have been working on just that, developing a set of policy engagement cards as part of the “Cardographer project”. These cards help “players” to map potential methods for translating their research into policy impact. 

Hanne Wagner, Principle Investigator at Edinburgh Napier
Chris Sims, Co-designer at University of Nottingham Institute for Policy and Engagement
Peter Craigon, Facilitator at Horizon Centre, University of Nottingham


Researchers who want to translate their research into policy impact: 1- 6 players


To help “players” to map potential methods for translating their research into policy impact.

Two people are sat in front of a table with an array of cards in front of them. One person has a card in their hand and is looking quizically about where to put the card on the table.

Before you play

Why use cards? The cards are part of the Cardographer Project, which takes a data-driven approach into how people design and practise campaigns. Creativity is at the heart of the project and these card-based tools offer new ways to engage with established processes and problems. The Policy Cards support groups of people to come together to consider a broad range of possibilities to help generate creative solutions to a wide range of problems. With the Policy Cards project, we are bringing this innovative approach to the design campaigns to promote evidence-based policy.

What are the cards? The tool is intended to be flexible, collaborative and approachable to researchers who do not come from a policy-focused background, while also being a valuable resource for those who do. The current version comprises around 200 concept cards, organised into three decks. The decks guide players through analysis of the target issue and the context around it, before focusing on campaign design.

How do they make policy impact? Policy that is based on a foundation of robust evidence is critical for a well-functioning society. Well-designed campaigns are an important mechanism that academics can use to translate their research into evidence-based policy impacts. However, this can be a difficult process to navigate. The Policy Cards provide a tool for developing communication between academics and policy makers by guiding players through the campaign ideation process, making policy impact approachable for a broad range of researchers.

“When you start thinking about [policy impact], it’s a really broad topic with a lot of ways to go, so having the cards is really helpful.” Andrea, Research Fellow

Our test players

In 2021, 2022, & 2024, the Policy Cards were tested in facilitated workshops with participants from the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training and University of Nottingham academic staff. CAPE funding allowed us to run workshops to identify key adjustments to the cards and their playability, as well as produce guidance for using them.

The current project aims to build on existing cards to create a resource that can be used independently to design effective policy campaigns. This includes a guide to using the cards and supporting materials such as game boards. These were developed and tested through workshops with academics with a range of research interests and policy impact experience, which have taken place in Edinburgh and Nottingham.

The designers

The initial version of the cards was developed in cooperation with the Institute for Policy and Engagement at the University of Nottingham with Dr Hanne Wagner.

If you have some research that you think has implications for policy, and are interested in participating in a workshop please get in touch with the policy cards team by emailing [email protected]