P&P annual prize announcement

P&P prize winners

By Sarah Ayres, Felicity Matthews and Steve Martin
Co-editors of Policy & Politics

We are delighted to announce the 2020 prizes for award winning papers published in Policy & Politics in 2019.

The Bleddyn Davies Prize, which acknowledges scholarship of the very highest standard by an early career academic, is awarded jointly to:

Joram Feitsma for his article on Brokering Behaviour Change: the Work Of Behavioural Insights Experts In Government


Toby Lowe, Jonathan Kimmitt, Rob Wilson, Mike Martin and Jane Gibbon for their article on the Institutional Work of Creating and Implementing Social Impact Bonds


The Ken Young Prize, which is awarded to the best article judged to represent excellence in the field published in Policy & Politics, is awarded for the second year running(!) to:

Selen Ercan, Carolyn M Hendriks and John S Dryzek for their article on Public Deliberation in an Era of Communicative Plenty

Brief critiques of the winning articles follow, written by the editorial team, in celebration of their contributions.


Joram Feitsma: Brokering Behaviour Change: the Work Of Behavioural Insights Experts In Government

In his outstanding paper, Joram Feitsma beautifully illustrates one of the main hallmarks of Policy & Politics in his forensic analysis foregrounding the politics of the behavioural insights movement. He describes how, in their efforts to professionalise, many contemporary governments have embraced the idea of evidence-based policy through behavioural insights. With the aim of making policies more behavioural science based, its frontstage role models tend to assume a straightforward, instrumental and apolitical view of the science-policy relationship that seems – and the author proves – to be unrealistic.

In the incisive analysis that follows, this award-winning article examines what goes on backstage in this behavioural insights movement, based on an ethnographic study of behaviour experts in Dutch central government. Feitsma concludes that the work comprises a complex palette of practices (eg choice architecture, analysis capacity building) which resembles typical knowledge brokerage work. The author closes by advocating the reframing of behaviour experts as ‘knowledge brokers’ in that they build networks, circulate knowledge, and translate abstract ideas into relevant tools. Much of their efforts go into persuading their peers of their added value, and authorising their institutional positions. Reframing their work in this way may help them to overcome typical knowledge broker-related barriers and challenges that they are likely to encounter. In the meantime, as the author so eloquently writes: “the paradox is elegant: while they convey a typically modernist message of scientisation and depoliticisation, getting this message across compels them to act profoundly politically”.

With its brilliant clarity of exposition, scientific analysis and clear and concise conclusions about the scholarly contribution the article makes to the field, this is a worthy winner of our Bleddyn Davies prize. Congratulations Joram!

Toby Lowe, Jonathan Kimmitt, Rob Wilson, Mike Martin and Jane Gibbon: The Institutional Work of Creating and Implementing Social Impact Bonds

In Toby Lowe, Jonathan Kimmitt, Rob Wilson, Mike Martin and Jane Gibbon’s illuminating article on social impact bonds, the authors offer one of the first detailed analyses of these relatively new policy tools, which are designed to link the outcomes of social interventions to payments and thus transferring the financial risk from governments to private investors. Drawing on the concepts of institutional work and discursive institutionalism, the authors investigate how the social impact bond featured in their case study influenced the rules, norms and decisions of key actors. Identifying two dominant discourses, the article demonstrates how these were found to be congruent at a macro policy level but evidenced tensions between them at meso and micro levels. Their findings show the interdependence of structure and agency in institutional work and the mediating role that discourse plays. Importantly, it also suggests that the effectiveness of social impact bonds depends not just on whether it achieves its outcome targets, but also for how those contracts work and potentially for the type of care received by their beneficiaries, if such tensions associated with the work of setting up a SIB are apparent in other SIB programmes.

An excellent contribution, congratulations all!

Selen Ercan, Carolyn M Hendriks and John S Dryzek for their article on Public Deliberation in an Era of Communicative Plenty

In this superlative article, our second time winner of the best paper prize, Selen Ercan, with co-authors Carolyn M Hendriks and John S Dryzek, elucidate the implications of the increasing volume of communication for contemporary democracy. Drawing on recent systems thinking in deliberative democracy, they argue that ‘communicative plenty’ – ie the increasing volume of online and face-to-face communication – can offer a viable context for large-scale public deliberation, but only under two conditions. Those conditions are firstly, that the spaces for voice and expression are accompanied by sufficient spaces of reflection and listening. And secondly, that collective decisions involve sequencing of expression first, then listening and then reflection. The perceptive empirical analysis of their case reveals that designing spaces of reflection and listening is a practical means of enhancing public deliberation and democracy, particularly in contexts vulnerable to an overload of expression. How pertinent for the current global COVID-19 pandemic!

This paper stands out as being the worthy winner of our annual best paper prize. Congratulations Selen, Carolyn and John!

You can read the original research in Policy & Politics for free:

Feitsma, Joram (2019) ‘Brokering behaviour change: the work of behavioural insights experts in government’,  Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557318X15174915040678

Lowe, Toby; Kimmitt, Jonathan; Wilson, Rob; Martin, Mike; Gibbon, Jane (2019) ‘The institutional work of creating and implementing Social Impact Bonds’,  Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557318X15333032765154

Ercan, Selen A; Hendriks, Carolyn M; Dryzek, John S (2019) ‘Public deliberation in an era of communicative plenty’,  Policy & Politics, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557318X15200933925405

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