There has been a policy push in several countries to encourage more evidence-based practice in education, although current knowledge shows that the relationship between education research and policy-practice is problematic. In spite of this, educational organizations have to respond to the challenges of globalisation with new pedagogic models to teach new things to new people in new ways. Therefore, researchers are being asked to consider new ways of relating with users. This article examines these ‘new ways’ in the context of a policy initiative for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in the UK where, as in other countries, there is a need to provide access to learning for migrants. A qualitative methodology has been used to reflect on the outcomes of a project that researched the experiences of learners and tutors in order to outline pedagogy for learning computer-based ESOL. Characteristics of research-policy relationships that ‘work’ by building a researcher-user community of practice are identified.