Sarah Ayres, Steve Martin and Felicity Matthews,
Co-editors of Policy & Politics
New virtual issue from Policy & Politics: Working with citizens and changing behaviours
In this month’s virtual issue we showcase our latest research on the topic of the state working with citizens and changing behaviours. As governments grapple with the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking behavioural change will be a key measure in the easing of lockdowns and the maintenance of social distancing, Against this backdrop, the articles below provide a series of instructive lessons.
In our first article, Activating citizens in Dutch care reforms: framing new co-production roles and competences for citizens and professionals, José Nederhand and Ingmar Van Meerkerk explore the growing interest of governments in co-production and self-organisation. They do this by analysing the framing of roles and responsibilities of citizens and professionals involved in care reforms in Holland. They find that, as in many other Western countries, caring responsibilities are being shifted back onto societies. Interestingly though, they observe that newer roles, such as citizen-as-co-producer, are not a direct substitute for more traditional roles such as citizen-as-client. Instead, they find an expansion and diversification of roles for professionals, for whom supporting and partnering with citizens are becoming new professional competencies.
In our second article, Matching policy tools and their targets: beyond nudges and utility maximisation in policy design, Michael Howlett argues that studies of policy tools have not devoted enough attention to the behavioural characteristics of the targets of policy interventions. Instead, they have assumed them to act rationally as ‘utility maximisers’ who can be manipulated by incentives and disincentives in a simple, straightforward way. To address this, Howlett proposes a new research agenda focused on understanding and matching behaviours with the most appropriate policy tools. It argues that targets are often complex entities and that a range of different target behaviours will often be present in any particular context, requiring a range of policy tools to be used.
Finally, in Brokering Behaviour Change: The Work of Behavioural Insights Experts in Government, Joram Feitsma aims to dispel the myths foregrounding the recent surge of interest by Western governments in behavioural insights into citizens’ actions. He argues that the assumptions underpinning the behavioural science approach to policy-making are fundamentally flawed and based on an unrealistic, instrumental, apolitical view of the science-policy relationship. Based on an ethnographic study of behavioural experts in the Dutch central government, he concludes that the work of behavioural insight experts might more accurately be understood as knowledge brokerage; and that translating behavioural policy practice in this way may help behavioural experts to overcome knowledge broker-related challenges.
All the articles featured in this blog are listed below and are free to download from Wednesday 3 June until Wednesday 10 June 2020:
Activating citizens in Dutch care reforms: framing new co-production roles and competences for citizens and professionals
Matching policy tools and their targets: beyond nudges and utility maximisation in policy design
Brokering Behaviour Change: The Work of Behavioural Insights Experts in Government