SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 2 – Behavioural insights into what motivates public employees on the front line to respond to reforms championed by elected politicians

Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.

Don leeDon Lee 

My recent article in Policy & Politics investigates how bureaucrats on the front line make policy implementation decisions. Political leaders and lawmakers tend to assume that street-level bureaucrats will follow their direction and implement polices as they devised. However, front line workers, in fact, have room to interpret the policies in the implementation process. To understand what important factors influence street-level bureaucrats’ implementation decisions, my article examines two central elements in policy implementation: 1) whether street-level bureaucrats’ policy orientation is congruent with that of elected politicians and 2) to what extent street-level bureaucrats have discretion in implementing policies. Continue reading SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 2 – Behavioural insights into what motivates public employees on the front line to respond to reforms championed by elected politicians

FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 1 – Why Nudge Sometimes Fails: Fatalism and the Problem of Behaviour Change

FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES ON ‘Beyond Nudge: advancing the state-of-the-art of Behavioural Public Policy & Administration’

Tom Entwistle

Nudge is frequently in the news at the moment. Thaler and Sunstein coined the term to describe the way in which governments could use small policy interventions (like an advert, a sign, or a letter) to ‘nudge’ people into changing their behaviour for the better, both for themselves and for society at large. Experts in nudge (so called behavioural scientists) have been  busy during the current pandemic advising the government on the best way of getting people to follow coronavirus health advice whether it be washing your hands while singing happy birthday or staying at home to save the NHS. 

We already know however that many people do not do what they are told. In my recent article in Policy & Politics, I describe how scholars working in public health draw on the notion of fatalism to explain the intractability of citizens who ignore their doctors’ advice. A fatalist mindset inclines some people to believe that their fortunes are, in the strongest sense of the word, predetermined or at least heavily constrained by forces beyond their control. People who believe their lives are characterised by luck, powerlessness and impenetrable complexity tend to respond poorly to authoritative advice. Three types of fatalism are of particular relevance to nudge. Continue reading FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 1 – Why Nudge Sometimes Fails: Fatalism and the Problem of Behaviour Change

Comparing citizen and policymaker perceptions of deliberative democratic innovations

koskimaa and rapeliVesa Koskimaa and Lauri Rapeli

It seems that people are growing increasingly disappointed with how representative democracy functions. A big part of the problem is arguably a de-attachment of policymakers from citizens’ everyday problems, which prompts citizens to react by turning their backs on conventional politics. Many scholars and other observers have turned to democratic innovations for solutions on how the link between democratic publics and their democratic leaders could be improved. Innovations based on the theory of deliberative democracy have probably received most attention by scholars and practitioners. Deliberative democracy refers to a decision-making process, which emphasizes informed, reflexive and egalitarian interpersonal communication.

To put theory into practice, mini-publics, like citizen initiative reviews, juries and assemblies have been widely used in democracies across the world. In these deliberative groups, randomly selected individuals discuss and decide upon a specific political issue on the basis of best expert knowledge and argumentation. A considerable number of studies have discussed theoretically whether deliberative bodies could fix the problems of contemporary representative democracy. Other studies have used experimental methods to examine the internal proceedings and effects of these deliberations. What has, however, almost totally been ignored by scholars are the views of policy-making elites, whose opinions on democracy eventually determine the shape of new democratic institutions. Continue reading Comparing citizen and policymaker perceptions of deliberative democratic innovations

The transformation of policy advisory systems: lessons from Whitehall

Patrick DiamondPatrick Diamond

Across the world over the last thirty years, the provision of policy advice to governments has been transformed as a diverse range of actors have been increasingly engaged in the policy-making process. Academic research needs to better understand the changes that have taken place by considering the shape of the new advisory systems, and the influence of different types of policy advice. In my latest research article in Policy & Politics, I seek to address this gap in understanding. The scholars Jonathan Craft and John Halligan developed the concept of a ‘policy advisory system’ to explain how policy advice is formulated by ‘interlocking actors’ beyond the formal bureaucracy of government. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) define policy advisory systems as the autonomous organisations – advisory bodies, think-tanks, policy labs, ‘what works’ centres, political advisers, committees of inquiry – that sustain government’s requirement for knowledge and expertise. Their growth has been observed particularly in the Anglophone countries – New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the UK. Continue reading The transformation of policy advisory systems: lessons from Whitehall

Behavioural insights teams in practice: nudge missions and methods on trial

Ball and HeadSarah Ball and Brian W. Head

They go by a variety of names; nudge units, behavioural insights (BI) teams and behavioural economics teams. However, they all owe a debt to the pioneering work of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in the United Kingdom (UK). Based on behavioural research on the ‘irrational’ behaviours of citizens and/or policy target audiences, ‘nudge’ instruments have been tested through rigorous research in the form of randomised controlled trials. Using this approach, the BIT UK has had a significant impact on the policy innovation landscape across the globe. Teams have emerged in Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and many more countries.

Our research recently published in Policy & Politics explores the BI phenomena as it emerged in Australia, from which we derive analysis relevant to global actors and governments engaged BI. In two independent exploratory studies, we sought to understand how such teams actually operate in practice. One study was an in-depth observational study of staff in the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA). The other was an interview-based study of three teams, namely, those operating in two state governments, New South Wales and Victoria, together with the Australian government’s BETA. Continue reading Behavioural insights teams in practice: nudge missions and methods on trial

Design special issue highlights collection – free to access from 31 July 2020 – 31 October 2020

Sarah BrownSarah Brown
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

This quarter’s highlights collection brings to you a selection of articles from our incredibly popular special issue on Policymaking as designing: the added value of design thinking for public administration and public policy.

Published earlier this year, this special issue brings together a collection of papers that have taken design of public policy and administration seriously, in a variety of different and practical ways. The papers demonstrate that not only are there many examples of design approaches being implemented, but that there is much to learn about how we make the best use of these to improve public policy and administration and the design of public services. Continue reading Design special issue highlights collection – free to access from 31 July 2020 – 31 October 2020

Exploring the role of the state in the depoliticisation of UK Transport Policy: Reflections through the lens of COVID-19

Reardon and MarsdenLouise Reardon and Greg Marsden

At the height of the pandemic in the UK, the government order was to ‘stay home, protect the National Health Service, save lives’. The public were told not to travel to their place of work unless that work was essential (and couldn’t be done from home), told not to leave the house for anything but essential groceries, medication or to support the vulnerable, and in doing so advised not to travel on public transport unless there was no alternative. As a consequence travel demand plummeted: motor traffic down by 73% compared to pre-outbreak levels, rail journeys down 90%, London Underground journeys down 94%, and bus journeys in London down 83%. While the current context is very different to the one we wrote our new Policy & Politics article in, it highlights the puzzle that initially caught our attention. Continue reading Exploring the role of the state in the depoliticisation of UK Transport Policy: Reflections through the lens of COVID-19

Which audiences matter to public service organisations when managing their reputations?

Jan Boon, Jan Wynen, Koen VerhoestJan Boon, Jan Wynen and Koen Verhoest

Why do public sector organisations target different stakeholder audiences when managing their reputations? This is the question we wanted to address in our recent Policy & Politics article entitled What determines the audiences that public service organisations target for reputation management.

A basic tenet in the reputation literature is that organisations are sensitive to their environment. Different audiences (be it clients, politicians, the media and others) expect different things from public service organisations, so how do they manage such conflicting demands? How do they prioritise the needs of their audiences? Continue reading Which audiences matter to public service organisations when managing their reputations?

Blog announcement from the Policy & Politics team

P&P editorsSarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews,
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

We are delighted to announce that Policy & Politics has achieved an impressive result in this year’s Journal Citation Reports with an Impact Factor of 3.069. This places the Journal in the top quartile of all public administration and the political science journals (10th out of 48 in the Public Administration category and 20th out of 160 in the Political Science category).

This fantastic outcome is testimony to the outstanding quality of research produced by our authors, the meticulous scrutiny of our peer reviewers, the hard work of the Policy & Politics and Policy Press team and the support of our Editorial and Management Boards. We would like to offer our thanks and congratulations to all.

To celebrate this increase we have made our most highly cited articles which contributed to the Impact Factor free to read until 31st August 2020. Please see the list below. Happy reading! Continue reading Blog announcement from the Policy & Politics team

Virtual issue on The changing nature of welfare

P&P editorsSarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews,
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

New virtual issue from Policy & Politics: The changing nature of welfare

While Policy & Politics has always tracked debates about the changing nature of welfare globally, our need to understand the implications of such changes is proving more crucial than ever during this global pandemic.  In particular, it is clear that this pandemic will have differentiated impacts, with those who are poorer and more vulnerable more likely to be adversely affected. To help think about how these challenges can be tackled, this special collection brings together a range of insights from recent articles that consider the changing nature of welfare and what this means for welfare recipients. Continue reading Virtual issue on The changing nature of welfare