The UK Government’s Alcohol Strategy (GAS), published in March 2012, unexpectedly included a commitment to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in England, following the adoption of similar measures by the Scottish Government. Yet just 16 months later, the introduction of MUP was placed on hold indefinitely. Our recent article published in Policy and Politics seeks to explain how and why MUP came so unexpectedly onto the policy agenda in England, before disappearing just as suddenly, and what this tells us about the evolving political dynamics of post-devolution and post-Brexit Britain.
In Scotland, MUP passed into law at the second attempt in 2012 and came into force in 2018 following a six-year legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association and other industry actors. The emergence of MUP as a viable policy option was, however, a ‘cross-border’ process with developments in Scotland inextricably linked to those ‘down South’, particularly the support for, and background work on, alcohol pricing within the Department of Health. Following its adoption in Scotland, a ’policy window’ opening in which MUP came onto the policy agenda in England also. However, this proved to be short lived. Our article argues that the success of MUP in Scotland and its failure in England can largely be explained in terms of the differing levels of political commitment to the policy in each context. Continue reading How minimum unit pricing for alcohol almost happened in England and what this says about the political dynamic of the UK
Pascal D. König & Markus B. Siewert
A key promise of representative democracy is that the government strives to generate public policy outputs which are responsive to the preferences of (a majority of) the people. If it delivers on its policy promises, a government can expect to gain or maintain support in the electorate, but if it fails to do so, it is likely to be sanctioned at the next election. This amounts to a central – albeit perhaps somewhat romanticising – rationale behind political competition driving policymakers to do their job. Continue reading Claiming and Assigning Credit for Fulfilled Policy Promises – Why Policymakers Fight an Uphill Battle
Policy solutions, interventions and reform revolve around specific societal diagnoses of the problems that policymaking is supposed to solve. One of the most influential societal diagnoses informing contemporary policy reform seems to be the following: the world has become more ‘complex’, problems have become ‘wicked’ ie intractable, and all policy solutions involve a great deal of ‘uncertainty’. This popular, but rather vague and unhistorical notion has sprung various new approaches to solve diverging political problems. These approaches are often legitimised with scientific knowledge and methods. Continue reading ‘Scientific’ policymaking in a ‘complex’ world – what can we learn from the Finnish experience?
Journal Manager of Policy & Politics
In a slight departure from our usual format highlighting 3 of our most topical articles, this quarter’s highlights collection focuses on our new special issue just published on
Policy-making as designing: the added value of design thinking for public administration and public policy
In recent years, policy makers have shown increasing interest in harnessing design approaches to address policy problems. Design methods can offer innovative perspectives on persistent policy problems (e.g. climate change; ageing population; urbanization etc.). Given the enormous influx of design toolboxes, design approaches and design steps, the search is on for an ‘ultimate’ design approach for public sector problems. But there are different approaches that can be used, and which have different strengths. Continue reading Policy & Politics Highlights collection on our NEW special issue just published on ‘Policy-making as designing’: free to access from 1 Feb – 30th April 2020.
Eleanor MacKillop, Sarah Quarmby and James Downe
If only policy could be better informed by evidence, it would be more efficient, effective and deliver better outcomes. That belief is the premise for most of the current research into what is called ‘knowledge brokering’– linking research to policy and practice. It’s also what has led governments worldwide into investing significant resources into bridging the evidence-policy ‘gap,’ such as What Works Centres in the UK, Productivity Commissions in Australia and New Zealand, or the What Works Clearinghouse in the United States. Unfortunately, the existing literature isn’t clear about what knowledge brokering is, and whether it works. Continue reading Knowledge brokering for policy: What do we know?
E-petitions have become extremely popular over the last decade. They circulate freely and quickly, with most people at some point having signed one. But there is a perennial question associated with them: what’s the point of e-petitions, do they achieve anything? In my recent Policy & Politics article, I approach this issue by exploring the different roles petitions can play, focusing on petitions to parliament. I show that petitions systems perform roles beyond enabling participation and policy change, depending on the types of processes in place to evaluate them. I demonstrate that the processes through which petitions are considered are crucial in shaping the role(s) they perform. Continue reading Can you make a difference when you sign an e-petition?
Margot Hermus, Arwin van Buuren & Victor Bekkers
The idea that public policies and services are in need of improvement or even innovation is widespread: they need to be more efficient and effective, because of financial pressures, but we also want them to be more responsive and tailor-made to citizens’ needs. One proposed solution is the introduction of design in public administration practice. This means that policies and services are seen as objects that are designed consciously to meet certain goals and/or requirements, rather than changed incrementally or negotiated politically. Thus far, the discussion surrounding design centres on its potential benefit and desirability in a public sector context. However, in our recent article in Policy & Politics, we focused on the unanswered questions regarding the way design is currently used. In what ways is design applied? With what goals? And what types of artefacts are being devised? With these questions in mind, we conducted a systematic literature review looking at applications of design in journal articles published in public administration journals between 1989 and 2016. Continue reading Design in public administration: a typology of approaches
Georges Romme and Albert Meijer
Local, regional and national governments are struggling to find solutions for complex problems such as sustainability, quality of life, and poverty. Public policy researchers are therefore increasingly called upon to help in crafting solutions to these complex challenges. Accordingly, scholars in the field of public policy and administration need to rethink their usual ‘bystander’ approach to designing policy and, instead, engage more in experimentation and interventions that can help change and improve governance systems. Continue reading Design science in public policy and administration research: how to actually apply it?
Jenny M Lewis
Article title: ‘When design meets power: Design thinking, public sector innovation and the politics of policymaking’ (by Jenny M Lewis, Michael McGann and Emma Blomkamp) in the special issue: ‘Improving public policy and administration: exploring the potential of design’.
Governments around the world have been experimenting with ‘design thinking’ approaches to test new policy solutions. In our recent article in Policy & Politics, we argue that policymakers need to learn how to incorporate the insights and practices from design thinking into policy. But designers also need to learn how to deal with the politics of the policy process. If both of these things happen, there should be significant benefits for policy design and all those affected by it. Continue reading What happens when design meets power?
Arwin Van Buuren, Jenny Lewis, Guy Peters, William Voorberg
In recent years, policy makers and administrators have shown increasing interest in design approaches to address policy problems. Design methods offer innovative perspectives on persistent policy problems (e.g. climate change; ageing population; urbanization etc.). Given the enormous influx of design toolboxes, design approaches and design steps, there is a search for an ‘ultimate’ design approach for public sector problems. But there are different approaches that can be used and which have different strengths.
In our introduction to the special issue on design and public policy we distinguish three rather different design approaches in public sector design. Continue reading Introduction to the Special Issue on the potential of design to improve public policy and administration