Category Archives: Public Policy

New Policy & Politics Virtual Issue on Public Services and Reform: free to download until the end of November

By Sarah Brown, Journal ManagerSarah Brown2

Try our new themed virtual issues which are free to download from 1-30 November:

Public Services and Reform
In this new virtual issue, we bring you our most impactful and recent research from diverse perspectives with a coherence of focus on increasing our understanding of public services and reform.

To introduce two highlights from the issue, opening the collection is one of our most innovative articles on how health discourses are linked to population health outcomes, hence the title: Working-class discourses of politics, policy and health: ‘I don’t smoke; I don’t drink. The only thing wrong with me is my health’. Moving from health to employment, Rebecca Taylor analyses the changing dynamics that come into play as the provision of employment services increasingly moves to public, private and third-sector organisations in her article entitled UK employment services: understanding provider strategies in a dynamic strategic action field. Covering a diverse range of public industries, other articles in the collection offer insightful studies across education, social care, disability, counter-terrorism, local government and state regulation.

Download them now before 30 November while they’re free to access! Continue reading New Policy & Politics Virtual Issue on Public Services and Reform: free to download until the end of November

The importance of evidence-based policy making, why measurement matters, and Claire Dunlop on learning from failure.

Sarah Brown2

by Sarah Brown, Journal Manager

Free research articles for APPAM 2017 from Policy & Politics on the importance of evidence-based policy making, why measurement matters and, Claire Dunlop on learning from failure.

In celebration of APPAM’s Fall Research Conference theme this year which looks at the importance of measurement in evaluating policy and performance, we have developed a virtual issue of recent research articles based on the conference theme which are free to access from 1-30 November. Just click on the hyperlinks below to go straight to the download page for each article.

Download the articles before 30 November while they’re free to access! Continue reading The importance of evidence-based policy making, why measurement matters, and Claire Dunlop on learning from failure.

Introducing our forthcoming Special Issue on superdiversity

Guest editors Jenny Phillimore, Nando Sigona and Katharine Tonkiss introduce their forthcoming Special Issue on superdiversity.

 

‘Super-diversity’ is a concept introduced by anthropologist Steven Vertovec (2007; Meissner and Vertovec 2015) to capture migration-driven demographic complexity and diversification which have emerged over recent decades in London and similar urban centres. While the nature and impact of superdiversity have begun to be interrogated in a wide range of fields and disciplines, the governance of – and development of policy associated with – superdiversity has received little attention. This special issue of Policy and Politics brings together contributions from across Europe in order to begin to address some of the gaps in knowledge around the multi-scalar governance of superdiversity.

The first article in our collection, by Hadj-Abdou and Geddes, focuses on the implications of increasing diversity for governance at the European level. Their findings concern the emergence of new policy paradigms associated with diversity at the European level. Interestingly they reveal the radical transformations in policy and governance brought about by processes of diversification in the demos which have often been hidden in studies of European governance.

Geldof et al go on to argue that flexible migration strategies emerge in superdiverse urban areas and consider the interplay between transnational practices by migrants and existing institutional responses in the country of residence.

Van Breugel and Scholten’s contribution offers a national comparative investigation of how the Netherlands, the UK and France have used mainstreaming to respond to migration-driven transformations in ways that are driven by political and economic motives, rather than considerations of diversity.

Ambrosini addresses the changing relations between national and local immigrant policies, and the involvement of civil society in the urban governance of immigration.

Medda-Windischer’s piece shifts the analysis to the sub-national level. By examining the multi-layering of ‘old’ and ‘new’ minorities in South Tyrol, she highlights the shortcomings of traditional ways of thinking about the representation of minorities in policymaking processes and highlights the potential of superdiversity to move past some of these limitations.

Oliveria and Padilla focus upon the ways in which superdiversity has been used as a marketing tool to highlight the uniqueness of certain places and increase their attractiveness to tourists.

Magazzini’s article demonstrates the value of superdiversity as the basis of a model for the governance of minorities. Turning her attention to the Roma populations of Europe, she develops a nuanced and detailed critique of pre-existing models and an analysis of the possibilities presented by a superdiversity-based approach.

Pemberton examines the role of urban planning in responding to migration-related superdiversity. Through a focus on Liverpool in the UK, the article highlights the importance of class-based differences above ethnic and cultural differences in shaping the practices of urban planners.

Finally, in Jensen’s contribution, the focus shifts to the neighbourhood level where the tension between diversity as a social fact and the neighbourhood as a site of local governance is explored.

Collectively, the authors propose a multi-scalar investigation of how local, regional, national and supranational institutions are coming to terms with the rapid and profound transformation of their populations. In doing so, they also contribute to the development of an agenda for future research that considers opportunities and challenges for policy and governance in the age of migration-driven superdiversity. Taken as a whole, the issue suggests paths to pursue and questions that needs further in-depth investigation. It also opens up a space for the encounters between different bodies of scholarship that to date have not yet, or only fleetingly, met.

Look out for the special issue forthcoming in October! But until then, each of the individual articles which are already published online, can be found by clicking through the titles above.

Jenny Phillimore is Professor of Migration and Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham. Nando Sigona is Deputy Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham and Katharine Tonkiss is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University.

Improving policy implementation through collaborative policymaking

Torfing Sorensen AnsellChristopher Ansell, Eva Sørensen and Jacob Torfing

An extended version of this blog post was originally published on the Discover Society blog.

Implementation problems defined by the failure to turn public policies into practice and deliver the intended results and effects are pervasive and highlighted by the new focus on performance measurement. Public decision-makers spend a lot of time and energy creating public policies and then leave policy implementation to public administrators. However, numerous studies have shown that there is often a considerable gap between the planned outputs and outcomes of public policy and what actually occurs. The failure to deliver public policies is highly problematic as it undermines the governing capacity of democratically elected politicians and tends to leave societal problems unsolved.

While the traditional implementation theories primarily have located the obstacles to policy implementation either in the long-stretched administrative implementation chains, the coping strategies advanced by street-level bureaucrats or recalcitrant target groups, we propose that implementation problems are rooted in bad policy designs. Public policies are often flawed and ill-conceived, making them impossible to implement for even the most skilled and motivated public administrators. The problem is not merely that the policy makers suffer from cognitive limitations in the sense that they lack evidence that the new program theory will work or that they fail to anticipate implementation problems such as lack of skills and insufficient budget allocations. In most cases, the policy implementation problem goes much deeper as it is rooted in the failure to align problems, solutions, actors and resources and integrate local knowledge about the conditions on the ground.

In our recent Policy & Politics article, we argue that policy designs can be improved through collaboration between upstream and downstream actors, including elected politicians, public managers, service providers, user groups and relevant interest organizations and advocacy groups.  Multi-actor collaboration based on deliberation tends to bring forth relevant knowledge, stimulate processes of mutual learning and build joint ownership over the new solutions. Since the implementation of well-crafted policy designs cannot be ensured through traditional top-down implementation based on command and control, the collaboration design process should be extended in order to enable the adaptation of the initial policy design to better reflect local conditions and emerging problems and challenges. As such, policy design should be seen as an ongoing process that flexibly adapts as implementation challenges unfold.

Taking a more collaborative approach to designing and flexibly adapting public policies tends to blur the sharp lines of demarcation between design and execution, top and bottom and public and private. Moreover, it helps us realize that implementation problems are not solved by managerial ploys aiming to clarify and communicate the policy objectives, plan the implementation process, evaluate performance and reward high performers/punish low performers. As such, the core of our argument is that the New Public Management agenda fails to address the heart of the so-called ‘policy execution problems’. More relevant solutions toperennial implementation problems are predicated on the new ideas of innovation, collaboration and resource mobilization set out by the New Public Governance perspective.

In sum, our article offers a new solution on a classical problem: the failure to implement public policy. Instead of further pursuing the idea that the new managerialism will close the gap between planned and actual policy outputs and outcomes, we advocate the idea of collaborative policy design and flexible adaptation to emerging problems and challenges. Our argument is based on a theoretical rapprochement between established implementation theories and the new theories of collaborative governance and aims to open a new line of research.

 

If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at Governance and the media: exploring the linkages

Depoliticising austerity – how Portugal challenged the discourse of ‘there is no alternative’

Adam Standring.jpgAdam Standring (Faculty of Social and Human Sciences in the New University of Lisbon, Portugal, FCSH-UNL) 

It’s March 2011 and Portugal makes one of its infrequent visits to the pages of the international media.  Rising borrowing rates and pressure from the international financial markets, combined with an increasingly unpopular ruling party, make it increasingly likely that Portugal will become the next of the ‘profligate PIIGS’ to succumb to the contagion of the Eurozone Sovereign debt crisis.  Within four months the Troika will be called in and the country will embark on a harsh ‘Economic Adjustment Programme’ – economics-speak for the raft of austerity measures and structural reforms on which bailout packages are conditioned. Continue reading Depoliticising austerity – how Portugal challenged the discourse of ‘there is no alternative’

Studies in Policy Failure: Government Decisions That Don’t Benefit Anybody

newman_birdJoshua Newman and Malcolm Bird

It seems that whenever political leaders announce a new policy, a program, a tax, a tax cut, a purchase, a sale, or anything else, they invariably claim that this decision will be for the benefit of all citizens. Of course, only the deeply deluded would believe this to be true – the fundamental scarcity of resources insists that every decision that a government makes must produce winners and losers, supporters and opponents. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

But what if, sometimes, governments did things that didn’t benefit anybody? What if it were possible for situations to arise that actually gave incentives to governing parties to produce pathological policy outcomes? Instead of learning from mistakes, can governments sometimes deliberately make matters worse? Continue reading Studies in Policy Failure: Government Decisions That Don’t Benefit Anybody

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.