Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.
My recent article in Policy & Politics investigates how bureaucrats on the front line make policy implementation decisions. Political leaders and lawmakers tend to assume that street-level bureaucrats will follow their direction and implement polices as they devised. However, front line workers, in fact, have room to interpret the policies in the implementation process. To understand what important factors influence street-level bureaucrats’ implementation decisions, my article examines two central elements in policy implementation: 1) whether street-level bureaucrats’ policy orientation is congruent with that of elected politicians and 2) to what extent street-level bureaucrats have discretion in implementing policies. Continue reading SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 2 – Behavioural insights into what motivates public employees on the front line to respond to reforms championed by elected politicians
Across the world over the last thirty years, the provision of policy advice to governments has been transformed as a diverse range of actors have been increasingly engaged in the policy-making process. Academic research needs to better understand the changes that have taken place by considering the shape of the new advisory systems, and the influence of different types of policy advice. In my latest research article in Policy & Politics, I seek to address this gap in understanding. The scholars Jonathan Craft and John Halligan developed the concept of a ‘policy advisory system’ to explain how policy advice is formulated by ‘interlocking actors’ beyond the formal bureaucracy of government. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) define policy advisory systems as the autonomous organisations – advisory bodies, think-tanks, policy labs, ‘what works’ centres, political advisers, committees of inquiry – that sustain government’s requirement for knowledge and expertise. Their growth has been observed particularly in the Anglophone countries – New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the UK. Continue reading The transformation of policy advisory systems: lessons from Whitehall
Louise Reardon and Greg Marsden
At the height of the pandemic in the UK, the government order was to ‘stay home, protect the National Health Service, save lives’. The public were told not to travel to their place of work unless that work was essential (and couldn’t be done from home), told not to leave the house for anything but essential groceries, medication or to support the vulnerable, and in doing so advised not to travel on public transport unless there was no alternative. As a consequence travel demand plummeted: motor traffic down by 73% compared to pre-outbreak levels, rail journeys down 90%, London Underground journeys down 94%, and bus journeys in London down 83%. While the current context is very different to the one we wrote our new Policy & Politics article in, it highlights the puzzle that initially caught our attention. Continue reading Exploring the role of the state in the depoliticisation of UK Transport Policy: Reflections through the lens of COVID-19
Jan Boon, Jan Wynen and Koen Verhoest
Why do public sector organisations target different stakeholder audiences when managing their reputations? This is the question we wanted to address in our recent Policy & Politics article entitled What determines the audiences that public service organisations target for reputation management.
A basic tenet in the reputation literature is that organisations are sensitive to their environment. Different audiences (be it clients, politicians, the media and others) expect different things from public service organisations, so how do they manage such conflicting demands? How do they prioritise the needs of their audiences? Continue reading Which audiences matter to public service organisations when managing their reputations?
Recently, we have witnessed deliberate constructions of migration crises, for example, by Victor Orbán, in Hungary in the period 2015–2018, and by Donald Trump, in the run-up to the U.S. 2018 midterm elections. In both cases, Orbán and Trump skillfully exploited the challenges that the general public sometimes faces in determining when a crisis begins and when a crisis is over. Furthermore, both leaders were willing to see certain threats, or at the very least the perception that there is a threat, ramped up in order to advance their political goals. They were able to step up existential warnings while taking advantage of the opportunities that arose as they determined the starting point and other temporal elements of the immigration crises they manufactured. Continue reading President Trump’s Policy Overreaction Style during Manufactured Crises
Eran Vigoda-Gadot, Shlomo Mizrahi and Nissim Cohen
How much do we trust the government? To what degree do we feel that it has a responsibility to ensure that its citizens are healthy? Do these issues have any relationship with our satisfaction with the services the government provides?
These are important questions, particularly when we face major issues like pandemics. We know that when we trust people or institutions, we are more willing to cooperate with them, take risks, commit to them and share information with them. In contrast, when we don’t trust people or institutions, we may fear them, be defensive in our interactions with them, not cooperate with them and distort the information we give them. Continue reading Government’s social responsibility, citizen satisfaction and trust
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. Continue reading P&P annual prize announcement
One constantly hears the slogan that local government is closest to the people and thus serves the people best.
But is it really close to the people and which people does it serve?
When did you last attend a council meeting? When did you last feel that you had a direct voice in a local government decision that affects your life? Do you know the name of your Councillor? Did your Mayor keep their election promise – did you even know what the promise was?
The truth of the matter is that most of us will answer negatively to all of these questions. That’s probably why most of us grumble about ‘crazy’ local government decisions but stand impotently by as the same group of Councillors are returned at the elections every few years. Continue reading Local Government by Lottery?
Kristoffer Kolltveit, Rune Karlsen & Jostein Askim
Employees in public agencies constantly need to think about how the outside world looks at them. According to bureaucratic reputation theory, public agencies face a complex web of reputational concerns regarding how they are perceived by multiple audiences who prioritise different dimensions of their work. For instance, public agencies are judged by critical media reports, a range of demanding users of public services, politicians and so on. A strong reputation is important, so building maintaining and protecting their reputation is important for generating public support, as well as facilitating their own autonomy and discretion from political interference. However, the existing bureaucratic reputation literature has overlooked the fact that employees might possess multiple social identities that could also affect their motivations, as well as the possibility that the employees might seek to protect the reputations of other government bodies which they hold feel committed to. In our recent Policy and Politics article, we draw on social identity theory to argue that employees are not only concerned about the reputation of the agency for which they work, but also about other actors in the political–administrative system; for example, the ministry to which they belong or the cabinet they serve. We argue that these distinct reputational concerns can have both individual and organisational explanations. For instance, employees in senior positions will emphasise their organisation more than employees in lower positions, because it is their organisational attributions that they identify most closely with. In a similar vein, employees with work experience from their parent ministry will emphasise the ministry more than employees without such experience, because of early socialization processes. Continue reading Understanding reputational concerns within government agencies
How can small-territory, subnational governments make the most of their position? Subnational governments like the devolved governments in the UK combine some of the opportunities and limitations of the national and the local governments between which they sit. They have some ‘national government’-type responsibilities and resources, like legislative authority and funding powers, although those resources are limited by their subordinate status. On the other hand, because their territories are comparatively small (Scotland has just under 5.5 million people and 32 local authorities, Wales just over 3 million and 22) they might able to cultivate ‘local government’-type relationships with a comprehensive range of local groups. Continue reading How might lower-ranking officials have a greater impact on policy development than previously assumed?