In her prize winning article, Maman analyses the democratic qualities of public organisations – transparency, accountability, participation, and representation. These are seen by many as positive and desirable attributes in the context of public organisations, since they reflect the basic democratic value of maintaining power within the public and having citizens take part in and oversee the decisions made by public organisations. However, despite their importance, it is still challenging to measure and compare the extent to which public organisations possess these democratic qualities because a comprehensive measurement tool has not yet been developed.
A new government came to power in India in May 2014 with the promise of reviving falling growth rates of the gross domestic product (GDP) used to measure economic growth of countries. Within only one and half years of its tenure, the government adopted stringent environmental standards to regulate coal-fired power plants. The new government’s consistent position on coal as an indispensable option for power generation in the near-term made the adoption of standards even more puzzling. This development thus took most stakeholders by surprise. This unexpected policy adoption presented a research opportunity to investigate the political process leading to adoption of the standards to better understand how agenda-setting and decision-making happen within the Indian federal (national) government.
Welcome to our first virtual issue of 2023 featuring the latest policy process theory research published in Policy & Politics. This issue features three recently published articles that apply and develop different policy process theories across a range policy contexts.
Our first article, Advocacy Coalitions, Power and Policy Change by Tim Heinmiller, critiques a core principle of the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) – that major policy change will not occur as long as the advocacy coalition that instated the policy remains “in power” in a jurisdiction. Firstly, Heinmiller explores what it means for a status quo advocacy coalition to be in power in a jurisdiction, especially as it relates to the ACF’s theory of policy change. After critically examining how this concept has been used in existing ACF scholarship, the author proposes a standard operationalization of being in power, drawing on the veto players literature, which he then illustrates using a case study of Canadian firearms policy. His conclusion demonstrates how the proposed operationalization is an improvement on existing practices that advances the theory around and measurement of policy change in the ACF.
by Clementine Hill O’Connor, Katherine Smith & Ellen Stewart
Balancing evidence with public preferences – a pressing policy dilemma?
How can policy organisations balance competing (and sometimes conflicting) imperatives to strengthen the role of evidence in policy, with simultaneous calls to better engage diverse publics? Academic research has much to say about both the value of evidence for policymaking and there are multiple studies examining evidence use in policy and assessing efforts to increase (or improve) the policymakers’ engagement with evidence. Academics have also been involved in developing a wide range of methods through which publics can be involved in policymaking. Perhaps surprisingly, these contributions are rarely connected. So, despite sharing a fundamental concern with the basis on which policy is made and a (sometimes implicit) claim to improve policy, these two areas of academic work are rarely connected. This is important because this disconnect creates real world challenges for people working in policy settings. This disconnect is the focus of our recent research published in Policy & Politics entitled Integrating Evidence and Public Engagement in Policy Work: An empirical examination of three UK policy organisations.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a major social crisis, putting people out of work and unable to satisfy primary needs such as affording food. In response, Italy experimented with a programme of emergency food stamps funded by the national government and delivered by municipalities—a form of assistance never experimented with before in the country. Programme implementation followed the peaks of the pandemic waves; it started with the first lockdown in March 2020, was terminated in the summer when COVID-19 cases approached zero, but was restarted in late autumn when the pandemic struck back. The repetition of the programme over a short time and with the same budget offers a unique opportunity to investigate inter-crisis learning, i.e. if and how lessons from the first wave of implementation contributed to reforms in the second delivery. Did administrations learn from the first food stamp delivery and redesign the second round accordingly? These research questions underpin our recent article published in Policy & Politics entitled Policy Learning in a crisis: Lessons learned from the Italian Food Stamp Programme.
Over recent years and with a rising number of crises and complex policy issues, policymakers are increasingly engaging in systematic and continuous policy learning. These policy learning processes aim at reaching better understandings of policy issues and their contexts. One of the aims of this learning is to develop better ways of solving societal challenges (through forms of technical learning) or consolidating and cultivating political power (through political learning). In other words, policymakers face problems that are difficult to solve, so they seek out knowledge and information from different sources in order to learn how to effectively solve these problems.
With its longstanding tradition, policy learning research has illuminated several aspects, mainly focused on explaining how policy actors learn, what lessons they come out with, and the role that learning processes play in policymaking. During crises, policy learning can contribute to effective crisis responses. However, it can also cause confusion or induce policy failure.
Jennifer A. Kagan, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, United States; Kristin L. Olofsson, Oklahoma State University, United States
Our recent article, published in Policy & Politics, aims to deepen our understanding of how industry and environmental groups perceive their advocacy strategies and effectiveness. The study context is oil and gas policy conflicts in Colorado State in the US, and data derive from two saves of a survey (administered in 2015 and 2017) of individuals involved in these conflicts. This study focuses specifically on individuals from industry groups – such as oil and gas companies or professional associations – and environmental groups, such as environmental nonprofits.
By Paul Wagner, Edinburgh Napier University, Petr Ocelík, Masaryk University, Antti Gronow, Helsinki University, Tuomas Ylä-Anttila, Helsinki University, Florence Metz, University of Twente
Policymaking is a complex process that involves a variety of stakeholders and interest groups that cooperate and compete to influence decisions made to solve societal problems. Since many such decisions redistribute money and other resources, participating policy actors use various advocacy strategies to influence these processes. Anti-gun control lobbying, abortion rights marches, Brexit media campaigns or direct actions of Extinction Rebellion are cases in point. As the use of such strategies is fast growing, an understanding of policy actors’ strategy choices is of great importance. This was the topic of our research in our recent Policy & Politics article.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what drew me to the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) about a decade ago. Part of it was frustration with the policy process theories I had used to that point. Part of it was the concept of advocacy coalitions, which – intuitively – seemed ubiquitous and important in policy-making. In truth, though, my interest in advocacy coalitions has always been instrumental – a platform on which to build a general understanding of how and why policies change. What drew me most to the ACF was its implicit incorporation of both the “puzzling” and “powering” dimensions of policy-making, to borrow Heclo’s (1974) terms.