Profiting from Pain: social impact bonds and social policy

Meghan Joy_John ShieldsMeghan Joy and John Shields

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are a social policy tool that claims to solve complex policy problems, such as homelessness, unemployment, and recidivism, through the scientific methods of financial modelling. Actively supported by several governments worldwide, SIBs provide a mechanism to turn the risky behaviours of vulnerable individuals into a form of profit making for private impact investors. SIB projects target population groups, such as the homeless, troubled youth, and obese, whose problems result in costly use of emergency-oriented public services such as shelters, prisons, and hospitals. In this way, SIBs are positioned as preventative, allowing future savings on costly public programs. These savings, also known as impacts, outcomes, or results are measured for their social value created (Dowling & Harvie, 2014). The SIB instrument places a current price on anticipated social value based on the assessed future risk that participants will not be reformed. Risks become a reward as investors bet on the extent to which vulnerable people will be transformed.

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are a new tool in the arsenal of neoliberal capitalism that might best be seen as an extension of public-private partnerships into the realm of social policy. As part of the pay-for-success movement, SIBs marketize social policy in ways that empower venture capitalists to profit from the misfortunes of others. The solution to difficult social problems has been cast with SIBs as a profiting from pain model.

The aim of our recent article in Policy & Politics entitled Austerity in the Making: Reconfiguring Social Policy through Social Impact Bonds is to identify future avenues for empirical research on SIBs to further assess how the tool reconfigures social policy and with what consequences for democracy and equity. Continue reading Profiting from Pain: social impact bonds and social policy

Practice theory for practice change: Policy making to changing collective conventions

FionaSpotswoodFiona Spotswood

At the recent cross-government Behavioural Insights (BI) network conference, delegates were introduced to the idea of theories of practice as a way of framing policy making for behaviour change. BI network members design and test policies using principles from behavioural economics, which is as far removed from the sociological routes of ‘practice’ as it is possible to be. However, the limits of behavioural economics for achieving meaningful behaviour change are well documented. For example, critics have highlighted its narrow scope and low ambition in the face of intractable problems such as climate change and obesity.

Theories of practice underpin the work of an increasingly large number of academics who aim for systemic, cultural change, not just better choices. Some government social researchers (GSRs) are aware of the ‘practice’ approach, although the lack of evidence base has so far stunted its adoption. However, most GSRs are unfamiliar with its potential.

Continue reading Practice theory for practice change: Policy making to changing collective conventions

Majoritarianism reinterpreted: why Parliament is more influential than often thought

FelicityProfileFelicity Matthews, co-editor of Policy & Politics

This blog post was originally published on the British Politics and Policy blog run by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In the Hansard Society’s latest Audit of Political Engagement, a record 73% of respondents agree that Westminster’s Parliament is ‘essential to democracy’. Yet within the very same survey, only 32% are satisfied with the way Parliament works and only 28% believe that it encourages public involvement in politics. A number of academic commentators have also cast doubt upon Parliament’s credentials, with some regarding it as ‘either peripheral or totally irrelevant’; and within comparative scholarship, the House of Commons is frequently derided as lacking the clout of its continental counterparts.

Continue reading Majoritarianism reinterpreted: why Parliament is more influential than often thought

Using management consultancy brings inefficiency to the NHS

IanKirkpatricketalIan Kirkpatrick, Andrew Sturdy, and Gianluca Veronesi

Few topics have provoked as much debate and controversy in many western societies as the growth in public spending on management consultants. In the UK’s public healthcare sector: the National Health Service (NHS), this spending more than doubled from £313 million in 2010 to £640 million in 2014. Understandably, it is under constant scrutiny and there are considerable pressures to cut the use of management consultants, but spending remains high. Management consultants provide advice on strategy, organisation, financial planning and assist with the implementation of new information technology. Frequently, they promise significant improvements in efficiency. According to the main industry body in the UK, the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), for every £1 spent on consulting fees, clients can expect £6 in return. However, as shown in a study we conducted recently, published in Policy & Politics, the use of management consultancy in English NHS hospital trusts is more likely to result in inefficiency.

Continue reading Using management consultancy brings inefficiency to the NHS

Why British people don’t trust the government any more – and what can be done about it

Peter Taylor-Gooby and Benjamin LeruthPeter Taylor-Gooby and Benjamin Leruth

A version of this blog was originally published on The Conversation on 31 January 2018.

Trust in politicians has fluctuated relatively little during the last 30 years in the UK. It remains stubbornly low. According to an index by the pollsters Ipsos-Mori, 18% of people said they trusted politicians in 1983, and 17% in 2017. Yet this hides some real changes that have taken place in recent years. As the rise of populist movements and decline of mainstream parties across Europe shows, the gap between politicians and citizens seems to grow ever wider. Continue reading Why British people don’t trust the government any more – and what can be done about it

Integrating superdiversity in urban governance: The case of inner-city Lisbon

Oliviera-PadillaNuno Oliviera and Beatriz Padilla

Superdiversity has been recognised as a common feature of urban spaces in globalized cities around the world today. The relationship between superdiversity as a social phenomenon and the local policies that frame this reality is still emerging.

Our recent Policy & Politics article explores how urban governance strategies are incorporating superdiverse spaces into local policies. We use the concrete case of Mouraria, a neighbourhood in Lisbon’s historical district undergoing a renewal process, to investigate the social dynamics that have constituted the idea of ‘diversity advantage’ in a specific urban space.

Continue reading Integrating superdiversity in urban governance: The case of inner-city Lisbon

To tackle low pay, policymakers must think about sectors

Neil Lee Anne Green Paul SissonsNeil Lee, Anne Green and Paul Sissons

An extended version of this blog post was originally published in Discover Society on 9 January 2018.

The UK has a low pay problem. The traditional policy mix has been work-first employment policies to get people into employment regardless of the job, a minimum wage to prop up low wages, alongside economic development policies focused on high-end sectors and investments in science and innovation. The result has been strong employment creation but one of the worst rates of low pay in the OECD. Around a fifth of the UK’s workforce are in low pay, defined as earning less than two thirds of national median weekly pay. Low pay has been compounded by wage stagnation: between 2008 and 2015 the only OECD country with worse wage growth was Greece.

Much of this low pay is in a small number of sectors which are set to grow significantly in the future, which will only proliferate the low pay problem. Through our close analysis of sectoral differences and the dynamics of low-paid sectors in our new article in Policy & Politics,  we reveal that instead of the current policy focus, efforts to improve productivity and earnings mobility in low-pay sectors, could improve living standards as well as the UK’s overall economic performance Continue reading To tackle low pay, policymakers must think about sectors