Northern Ireland – Where is the peace dividend?

Colin Knox PhotoColin Knox

So, Northern Ireland is sorted. A devolved executive is in place, violence has reduced significantly, and we are selling our peace process around the world as a model of power-sharing for contested societies. Well yes, to some extent. But in my recent article analysing the fragility of the peace process entitled Northern Ireland: where is the peace dividend, and published in Policy & Politics, I argue that we now have a ‘negative peace’ where those most impacted by violence have gained least from the peace process.

Not to take away from all those who have got us to this point but people living in highly segregated, socially deprived areas have actually witnessed the quality of their lives remain the same or regress under ‘peace’. If we look at some of the indicators which determine if people’s lives have got better (health, education, social welfare, mental health, and crime), there is little evidence that much has changed since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Such is the sensitivity of this topic that a research paper prepared by the Northern Ireland Assembly, Research and Library Service which tracked some of these indicators was withdrawn from the official website. Continue reading

Welfare reforms are based on the wrong assumptions about benefit recipients’ motivations and actions

profile photoSocial security systems are being transformed according to untested assumptions about how benefit recipients act. Sharon Wright provides evidence to challenge several core myths on which British welfare reforms have been based. There is a wide gap between the dominant way in which welfare subjects are represented in political and media debate and the lived experiences of those receiving benefits and using support services.

Over the last 15 years, British welfare reforms have focussed on individualising responsibility and contracting-out services. These strategies share a behaviour change logic that assumes the source of the problem is to be found in the flawed motivations and actions of benefit recipients and their job coaches. Consecutive UK governments have been strongly committed to the idea of ‘getting people off benefits and into work’, despite long periods of minimal unemployment rates and exceptionally high employment rates. Continue reading

Using marketing practices to realize public values

Clive Barnett & Nick MahoneyBy Clive Barnett and Nick Mahony

Market segmentation methodologies are increasingly used in public policy, arts and culture management, and third sector campaigning. As one element of the growth of customer relationship management, or CRM, the use of segmentation methods is part of a broader trend for organisations to make use of new digital informational technologies to generate strategically useful data and knowledge about their customers, clients and constituencies. Despite the widespread use of segmentation methodologies in the strategic thinking of public as well as private organisations, the organisational dynamics of adopting and implementing segmentation practices remains under researched. The application of segmentation methods in non-commercial settings, including but not limited to the public sector, depends on the taken-for-granted normative assumption that market segmentation is a basic, necessary, and effective stage in developing successful marketing strategies. Continue reading

Scottish Committee Scrutiny

By Michael ColeMichael Cole photo

Recently, an intensive spotlight has been thrown on Scottish government and politics. First, almost 45% of the voters supported leaving the UK and, second, a consensus has emerged that the Scottish Parliament should acquire additional powers. Third, in May 2015 the SNP won 56 out of 59 seats in the UK General Election and now opinion polls suggest that they are likely to increase their majority in the Scottish Parliament. These contemporary events provided a good context for research I have been undertaking over the last few years on scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament.  The central themes perhaps being is this resurgent self-confidence in Scottish institutions justified? And how do they differ from those at UK level? Continue reading

Inspired by the issue

thomas-elstonBy Thomas Elston

The April 2016 issue of Policy & Politics includes two articles about one of the most pressing issues facing contemporary public administration – how governments can successfully harness the resources of the private sector to deliver public services.

The articles, by John Nicholson and Kevin Orr, and Chris Lonsdale et al., differ significantly in theory and method.  The former is sociological and qualitative, examining micro-level working relations between public and private actors.  The latter uses institutional economics and mid-range survey data to test hypotheses about public procurement processes.  Yet, despite these differences, each article shares an interest in public-private relations. Continue reading