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.
Members of the media and the US president. Joe Biden himself, have suggested that Americans’ experience with COVID-19 and federal response policy may have increased support for social welfare. Much to their credit, our recent scholarly research into this question which has just been published in our article for Policy & Politics found evidence that this may be the case.
In spite of the best efforts of government, sometimes policies do not work as designed. As scholars of the policy process and citizens in a representative democracy, our normative expectation is that government should learn when policies do not work to improve outcomes for communities. This is especially true in the wake of a natural disaster. Disasters can serve as an opportunity for governments to engage in policy learning by updating beliefs about policies and learning lessons about policy tools, instruments, and politics. Often, disasters can reveal physical and social vulnerabilities and gaps in preparedness that unevenly distribute the risk of damage within a community. In our recent article in Policy & Politics , we investigate which conditions constrain or promote policy learning. Understanding these conditions is of critical importance in gaining a better understanding of why some governments learn to improve policies after a disaster and some do not.
Welcome to our virtual issue featuring scholarship on Asia published in Policy & Politics in the last two years. We have a strong body of work surfacing a range of policy issues in the region with wider relevance as well and look forward to receiving similar submissions in the future!