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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Revisiting the geography of superdiversity

Ole JensenOle Jensen

The geography of much superdiversity research reflects what can be described as a new way of mapping familiar spaces. Why new? Why familiar?  Many analyses of diversity often restrict their analytical focus to gritty and inner-city areas already recognised as diverse according to established categories based on race and ethnicity. Using data from the EU-funded Concordia Discors project, my recent Policy & Politics article argues that an understanding of superdiversity, which is informed by attention to the broader context of unequal power relations and resource allocations in the post-industrial city (Soja 2010), can lead to a more nuanced understanding of socio-cultural dynamics at neighbourhood level.

While fieldwork was carried out in five cities (Pastore and Ponzo 2016), this discussion is based on data from six neighbourhoods in Barcelona, London and Turin. In keeping with the broader thematic focus of the project – inter-group relations at neighbourhood level – our comparative analysis focuses on the emergence of so called ‘backlash’ narratives, in other words accounts of negative, local responses to aspects of urban development or immigration trends. It is a framing that allows for a targeting of themes that are considered relevant in the local context, thus enabling an understanding of the city as a generative space rather than a mere canvas (Walter and Uttermark 2016). This also marks a departure from pre-defined categories based on migrant status, ethnicity, religion, or class.

The six neighbourhoods represent post-industrial urban dynamics in ways that demonstrate considerable variation, both within and between cities. There was in Camberwell (London), Borgo San Paolo(Turin) and the two Barcelona neighbourhoods a sense of the local area evolving at par with the city – albeit in very different ways. As a distinct ‘majority minority neighbourhood’ most impacted by long-term and continuous processes of arrival and settlement, conventional ideas of majority and minority populations had been done away with in Camberwell, resulting in a super-diverse neighbourhood without a dominant narrative of community. In both Borgo San Paolo and, in particular, Poble Sec (Barcelona), international migration was a more recent experience, generally absorbed without triggering any significant backlash responses from the settled populations – despite a very rapid increase in the immigrant population in Poble Sec in the 2000s, with the immigrant proportion of the population increasing four-fold.

Backlash narratives relating to perceptions of marginalisation were prevalent in both Bermondsey (London) and Barreira di Milano (Turin). Here, post-industrialism was associated with experiences of loss and stagnation, resulting in a strong sense of disadvantage in relation to other parts of the city. Furthermore, in Bermondsey the re-development of former docklands into expensive housing units, inaccessible to the local population, served as a poignant reminder of how the planks underpinning livelihoods in industrial Bermondsey now signpost a highly classed housing landscape.

The two Turin neighbourhoods shared an industrial heritage as well as memories of internal migration from Southern Italy, but the dynamics of post-industrial urban developments have impacted the two neighbourhoods differently, as expressed in prevalent backlash narratives. While former migrants in Borgo San Paolo identified similarities between their own migrant experience and that of more recently arrived international migrants, inhabitants in the more deprived Barreira di Milano neighbourhood were much more apprehensive, at times hostile, towards newcomers.

In summary, this blog has provided examples of the relevance of applying a multi-scalar perspective to the analysis of neighbourhood level diversity. By considering how broader urban dynamics inform the development of local backlash narratives, the analysis has argued for a widening of the geographical scope of superdiversity research.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Making the most of super-diversity. Notes on the potential of a new approach

Urban planning and the challenge of super-diversity

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