Category Archives: Governance

Language revitalisation in an age of social transformation

Huw Lewis & Elin Royles

By Huw Lewis and Elin Royles, Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University.

This post was originally published in Discover Society on 2 August 2017.

Currently, the Welsh Government is in the process of finalising the content of its new national Welsh language strategy. This new strategy, a successor to A living language: A language for living, published back in 2012, will outline the government’s vision for Welsh for the next 20 years. Given the Welsh Labour 2016 manifesto commitment of creating a million Welsh speakers by 2050, the strategy is likely to be an important document setting a series of key long-term goals. Meanwhile, up in Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the official body tasked by the Scottish Government to promote the Gaelic language, recently concluded a process of consulting on the contents of its new National Gaelic Language Plan, the third to be published since 2005.

Continue reading Language revitalisation in an age of social transformation

Communities First?  Governing neighbourhoods under austerity

Welsh Government is phasing out its (former flagship) Communities First tackling poverty programme from 2017/18.  The Bevan Foundation, a think tank, has stressed that subsequent local action should be led by ‘community anchors’ – community-based organisations with a good track-record and strong community engagement. In a recent article published in Policy & Politics, we use the conceptual framework of hybridity – conducted as part of the Transgob project in Cardiff, Wales – to support this recommendation, and highlight the need for local government to relinquish its former levels of control to give these organisations space to develop approaches which work for their communities.

The research explored what austerity means for participation in city governance.  The optimistic view is that making governance more participatory can help overcome the hurdles of bureaucracy, with government ceding control to enable capacity to address complex problems.  The pessimistic view is that city governance remains dominated by state elites, with third sector and community partners co-opted to compensate for the decline in state provision, compromising their ability to advocate for and ensure that communities get decent services.  In Cardiff we uncovered attitudes and practices somewhere in between these two views.

We found that austerity had accelerated the city council’s use of its city governance structure, the Cardiff Partnership, to share the risk and responsibility of service delivery with other public organisations, but also with third sector organisations and neighbourhood-level community groups.  Communities were certainly having to take more responsibility for delivering their own (formerly public) services, such as play and youth services and the maintenance of parks, sports grounds and streets.  Those at the neighbourhood frontline faced tensions and power conflicts in trying to develop workable practice.

But we did find that community-based organisations had some room for manoeuvre in developing forms of co-production that were rooted in communities as well as responding to the strictures of funding cuts.  One example was timebanking, championed by a deprived community-based organisation in south Cardiff.  The approach means that volunteers can exchange equivalent hours of providing a service such as kids’ school holiday activities for other services.  The scheme was underpinned by the council offering access to facilities such as swimming pools, but the opportunities to spend credits earned within the community were expanding, indicating potential for it to become self-sustaining (and thus definitively community-led).  But it was too early in our research to tell whether attempts to replicate it will be successful.

mpill

Credit: photograph taken by Madeleine Pill of the mural celebrating ‘Timeplace’, a community timebank running in the Cardiff neighbourhoods of Ely, Caerau, Fairwater and Pentrebane.  Timeplace is run by ACE (Action in Caerau & Ely) http://www.aceplace.org/timeplace/, a community-based organisation, in partnership with Spice,http://www.justaddspice.org/, a specialist timebanking non-profit organisation.

The city council was also seeking to transfer assets such as libraries and community centres to communities.  The frustrations of this process – such as the need for willing community groups to become formalised organisations – showed the need for change in the council’s attitudes to risk.  In the words of a Welsh Government officer, government needs to ‘recognise that the cheapest and best way to achieve real things is to spot what people are doing for themselves and support them’.

When the Communities First programme was reshaped in 2011, Cardiff Council innovated by contracting community-based organisations to manage the four deprived neighbourhood ‘clusters’ eligible for programme support. In so doing, the council downloaded risk and offloaded staff costs as the organisations took on responsibility for finance, HR and evaluation – thus becoming hybrid third-public sector organisations.  Their staff had to navigate the tensions and dilemmas of implementing a (national) programme, engaging in the (city-wide) strategy overseen by the Cardiff Partnership, and the needs and demands of their communities.  Doing this aligned with the demands of austerity, enrolling these community organisations into service delivery in ways that included voluntarism, thus increasing community self-reliance.  But we also found, to an extent, that community organisation staff were able to innovate (such as with timebanking) – and in ways that maintained their community-focused mission.

Therefore our Cardiff research shows how the ‘devolution, decentralisation and downloading’ of Peck’s (2012) ‘austerity urbanism’ encourages hybridity at a scalar, organisational and individual level.  But our research also reinforces the need to understand local practices to provide insight beyond the dualism of empowerment or incorporation.  The Cardiff experience of participatory governance demonstrates the potential for transformative alternatives in the everyday and the small-scale – and also highlights the need for state supports rather than constraints in these processes.   In the case of Wales, the need to sustain the work of community anchors should be a priority.

The ‘Transgob’ project analysed the discourse and practice of participatory urban governance under austerity in two British (Cardiff and Leicester) and four Spanish cities.  It was funded by the Spanish government’s National Research and Development Plan (reference CSO2012-32817).

Dr Madeleine Pill is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Sydney, Australia, and Valeria Guarneros-Meza is a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, based at De Montfort University, in the UK.

If you enjoyed this blog post you may also like to read Community asset transfer in Northern Ireland by Brendan Murtagh.

India’s Emerging Social Policy Paradigm: Productive, Protective or What? 

stefan-kuhner-and-keerty-nakray

Stephan Kühner and Keerty Nakray

The last two decades have been marked by a renewed focus on pro-poor social policies in India under the two Centre/Left Congress/United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments (2004-2009, 2009-2014). These social policies included a plethora of education programs (such as Madhyamik Shiksha Yojana (National Middle School/ Secondary School Scheme), health insurance programs (such as Rashtriya’s Swasthya Bima Yojana, (RSBY) along with several conditional cash transfer schemes such as Janani Suraksha Yojana (Protection of Motherhood Scheme, JSY); and rural poverty alleviation programs (such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) etc.

In our recent article published in the Journal of Asian Public Policy, we analyse if these programs really mark a genuine shift towards pro-poor universal social policies and if the actions of the UPA actually delivered on its well-promoted rhetoric of pushing India towards a high skills based knowledge economy.  Our analysis also re-examined the existing research on extending welfare regime theories to developing counties. For example, Wood and Gough (2006) classified India as an informal-insecure regime as large numbers of citizens largely depend on precarious employment and informal family and kinship networks for welfare. Similarly, Kühner (2015) pointed out that much of the social expenditure is disproportionately directed towards to social protection programs such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Our analysis indicates that the majority of these social programmes do not signify a genuine move towards greater inclusivity or categorical entitlements. Benefit levels remain generally low and eligibility criteria too rigid to facilitate an extension of social protection coverage. India’s social policies essentially remain residual, even minimalist, in character. Recent social policy initiatives largely appear in fragments with few connections with each other or any clearly defined strategy linking them to the economic goals of the country.

Our research makes a contribution to welfare state modeling which in recent decades has gone beyond focusing solely on advanced capitalist countries in the rich European and OECD countries. The emergence of East Asian welfare states and more recent developments in middle income countries such as Brazil and China has led to a diversification of the literature. India has not been dealt systematically in this research.  We have attempted to extend and diversify welfare regime theory based on an interdisciplinary review of India’s emerging social policies during the two recent Centre/Left Congress/United Progressive Alliance governments (2004-2009, 2009-2014).

We hope that the announcement of many new social protection schemes by the ambitious Modi government elected in 2014 may force us to change our assessment of the emerging social policy landscape in India. For instance, the World Bank’s Global Findex indicates a considerable improvement in access to formal bank accounts (from 35 per cent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2014) as a consequence of the Jan Dhan Yojana (Prime Minister’s People Money Scheme) program, which was launched in 2014.

If equally successful, the Modi government’s ambitious ‘Skill India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives, which aim to train 500 million Indians and create 100 million new manufacturing jobs by 2022 may well force us to reconsider the Indian political economy altogether. It remains to be seen whether further extensions of the emerging Indian middle class – currently standing somewhere between 100-300 million depending on the exact measure used – together with an ever-increasing presence of civil society organizations will trigger not only more domestic demand for manufacturing products and more formal employment, but will also create a new politics of social policy that will manage to move India beyond its current dependency mode.

Dr. Stefan Kühner, is an Assistant Professor at Ling nan University, Hong Kong. Email: stefankuehner@ln.edu.hk  Twitter: @stefankuehner

Dr. Keerty Nakray, is an Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Centre for Women, Law and Social Change, at O.P. Jindal Global University, India. Email: knakray@jgu.edu.in; Twitter @socialpolicyind

If you enjoyed this blog post you may also like to read Gender budgeting and public policy: the challenges to operationalising gender justice in India by Keerty Nakray.

Policy & Politics Co-editor Felicity Matthews reflects on the first months of Theresa May’s new Conservative government.

felicity-matthews

By Felicity Matthews

At 07:20 on 24 June 2016, the result of the ‘once-in-a-generation’ referendum was announced.  Little over an hour later the Prime Minister made his own announcement on the steps of Downing Street, stating that it ‘would not be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination’.  Since then, one word has been on the lips of Westminster watchers.  Bre… OK, not that one.  Another.  One beginning with ‘m’: MANDATE.  Who has a mandate?  To do what?  By when?  How? Continue reading Policy & Politics Co-editor Felicity Matthews reflects on the first months of Theresa May’s new Conservative government.

The Brexit debate is far from over: there will have to be a further vote

Britain has voted for Brexit. What comes next is remarkably unclear. In an article originally published on the LSE Brexit Vote blog on 24th June, and on the Democratic Audit UK blog, James Strong argues that four questions remain, and whether it is a general election or a second referendum, further polls will be required. To read the article on the Democratic Audit UK blog, click here.

Democratic audit_Brexit debate far from over
Credit: European Parliament CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

First, when will the Brexit negotiations begin? This morning David Cameron broke two promises he made during the referendum campaign. He resigned as Prime Minister. And he announced that he would not immediately inform the European Council that Britain wishes to withdraw from the EU, in line with Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is significant. Once a state activates Article 50, it has two years to negotiate its future relationship with the remaining 27 member states. After two years its membership terminates automatically. Continue reading The Brexit debate is far from over: there will have to be a further vote

Inspired by the Issue: a review of Participatory policy making under authoritarianism: the pathways of local budgetary reform in the People’s Republic of China’ by Xiaojun Yan and Ge Xin

Yijia JingBy Yijia Jing, Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board member, Fudan University, Shanghai

Browsing through the latest April 2016 issue of Policy & Politics, I was ‘inspired’ to review the article entitled ‘Participatory policy making under authoritarianism: the pathways of local budgetary reform in the People’s Republic of China’ by Xiaojun Yan and Ge Xin. Their research touches an interesting innovation in China’s public sector that aims to engage citizens in local budgetary decisions. The fundamental dilemma, as the authors clarify, is the enthusiasm of an authoritarian system in civic participation. Why do local governments of China adopt reforms to empower citizens? To what extent have these kinds of reforms empowered citizens? What is the potential for these kinds of reforms to be expanded and upgraded? These are all critical questions to understand China’s evolving political system. Usually the corporatist strategy, namely the state’s authoritative recognition of an organization as the legal and sole representative of certain sectoral interests, has been adopted to explain Chinese governments’ policy toward external forces, for example the rising economic and social elites (for example, Truex, 2014) and the rising new social organizations (for example, Jing and Gong, 2012). So are there differences in engaging ordinary citizens? Keep in mind that the Communist Party of China(CPC) never lacked citizen engagement in its history. Even after the civil war and the establishment of People’s Republic of China, the CPC frequently used mass movements to engage citizens for multiple political and policy purposes. Continue reading Inspired by the Issue: a review of Participatory policy making under authoritarianism: the pathways of local budgetary reform in the People’s Republic of China’ by Xiaojun Yan and Ge Xin

Media attention for complex governance processes: does it matter?

Erik Hans Klijn
Erik Hans Klijn

Media are everywhere nowadays and it is well known that politicians are very well aware of that and try to stage their performance to get as much media attention as possible. There are even authors who speak of modern democracy as the drama democracy where everything is about staging media attention and performance and not about implementation (eg Elchardus, 2002).

Are politicians different from rock stars?

As a result of the increasing mediatization of our society we now judge our politicians and public officials with the same standards as we judge our celebrities (rock stars, soccer players, TV personalities). Politicians appear on stage with wife and children, we want to know their private life and they appear as guests on talk shows. Research shows that media pay much more attention to private life of politicians than say for instance 30 years ago.

But the mediatization literature also suggests that the rules of the media logic (like the emphasis on drama, conflict and personal stories and the tendency to frame everything in short soundbites) penetrate other spheres of life (like the political domain, but also public administration). In our Policy & Politics article: Managing commercialised media attention in complex governance networks: positive and negative effects on network performance, we examine the impact of commercialised media attention and its positive and negative effects on network performance in complex governance networks. Since various authors point to the commercialisation of news as the main driver for this media logic we have labelled such attention “commercialised news” in our article.  Continue reading Media attention for complex governance processes: does it matter?