Tag Archives: policy

Policy & Politics at ECPR 2017

Representatives from the Policy & Politics journal team are delighted to be attending the 2017 General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) in Oslo from 6-8 September.

Please look out for our representatives around the conference to discuss any relevant articles you are planning to publish. They are:

Ayres

Sarah Ayres, Academic Co-Editor

 

 

 

 

Brown Sarah Brown, Journal Manager

 

 

 

 

Many of our Editorial Board members are attending too so do approach them if you want to get their views on the journal as a potential publication outlet. They are Nikolaos Zahariadis, Associate Editor for North America and Editorial Advisory Board members Eva Sorenson, Isabelle Engeli & Richard Simmons.

With such incredible variety and impressive quality across the 72 panels and 1,881 papers being presented at the conference, we are looking forward to meeting and discussing research ideas with many of you.

The Policy & Politics exhibition stand is located in the exhibitors’ hall in the Eilert Sundts hus alongside our publisher Policy Press, so please do stop by to find out more about the journal. We’ll look forward to seeing you.

Sarah Brown, Journal Manager

If you enjoyed this blog you may also enjoy top tips on how to get published in Policy & Politics

There is more than one way to involve the public in policy decisions

Rikki Dean photoBy Rikki Dean

Imagine you are a civil servant. You have just convinced your somewhat skeptical colleagues that your new policy initiative should incorporate extensive public participation in its design process. You now have some tough choices to make: who is going to participate in the process, for example? You know that if you keep participation open to all, then the process will be criticized within your department for just involving the usual suspects. But if you restrict participation, to a randomly selected group for instance, then you know there are some influential policy NGOs who will be vocal about their exclusion.

Or imagine you are a citizen who has decided to get involved in a participatory governance initiative. You were told this initiative was going to give you an opportunity to hold policy-makers to account. But, now you’re taking part you realize it is more about working collaboratively to input your ‘experiential expertise’ into the process. You also have some choices to make. Do you try to rattle the cage from the inside, or comply with the rules of the game and play nice? Or do you simply stop participating at all? Continue reading There is more than one way to involve the public in policy decisions

How politics and power create poor health: ‘I think they’re trying to kill folk aff’

Mhairi Mackenzie et al

By Mhairi Mackenzie, Chik Collins, John Connolly, Gerard McCartney, Mick Doyle

 

 

 

 

We know from decades of international research that power, politics and specific social and economic policies have a fundamental role in creating health.  These factors contribute very significantly to the gradient we see across income groups in terms of life expectancy and more general wellbeing.

However, many health policy researchers have identified how policies which claim to be about reducing health inequalities seldom squarely address these fundamental determinants of health.  Instead, policies have a distinct tendency to focus on changing the behaviours of (mainly) poor people. The message is often that people smoke too much, drink too much or don’t make the best use of services that are available to them.  These messages do not give proper consideration to why particular health damaging behaviours occur in particular places or why health is worse in certain places even in the absence of these behaviours. Even those policies which do start with a broader analysis of the problem of disparities in health are subject to lifestyle drift when it comes to putting policy into practice.  Although policy documents may state that the causes of poor health or inequalities in health are to do with poverty and deprivation, the interventions which actually operate on the ground focus much less (if at all) on changing people’s material circumstances and rather more on trying to change behaviours (which are in fact heavily shaped by material circumstances).

In light of the above, it is unsurprising that research in different countries also shows that when policy makers and practitioners talk about how health is created they tend not to give due regard to these known fundamental causes. Again, the emphasis is on explanations that focus on individual lifestyles. Behavioural interventions aimed at changing the lives of poor individuals clearly have a powerful draw on the attention of policy makers.  The reasons for this preference are many and varied and include the desire for quick policy wins over longer term action and the seductive appeal of short and simplistic causal pathways to health, in preference to having to deal, intellectually and practically, with the longer and more complex pathways which are actually at work.

Another reason, however, for the hardiness of the behavioural intervention as a policy tool – despite its apparent lack of success in addressing the problem – is that it fits within a broader contemporary political narrative.  That narrative tells us that individuals are responsible for making and breaking their own life chances.  Consequently, their health and social outcomes lie overwhelmingly in their own hands.  There is, in this view, ‘no such thing as society’, or at least no wider societal determinants which individuals can’t be expected to just over-ride through their personal choices and individual acts of will.  In this narrative the state’s role is to ‘nudge’, ‘activate’ or mandate individuals to do the right thing rather than to challenge fundamentally the existing power relations within society.

This kind of thinking is part of the wider set of discourses, policies and practices associated with neoliberalism.  These provide both the context in which, and the mechanisms through which, the lives of some communities have become in many ways much more difficult since the 1980s – and their existence and identity much more marginalised.  Research tells us that it is this fundamental part of the story of how poor health is created that is largely missing from the discourse of those in policy and practice.

In our recent Policy & Politics article: 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’, we wanted to look at how people living in deprived communities – which had felt the brunt of deindustrialisation in the 1980s and had been at the sharp edge of austerity in current times – talked about how politics and policies had impacted on their health, and that of their families and their wider communities.  Unlike the messages from policymakers, our sample of participants in the towns of Kilmarnock and Cumnock in East Ayrshire, Scotland, brought vividly to life how it is that power, politics and social and economic policies are indeed a fundamental matter for health – at both an individual and community level.

Here are some of the things our participants told us:

They do not feel at all valued by political elites; on the contrary they are made to feel literally surplus to requirements. An ex-miner told us: ‘I’ve heated their bums wae coal…we’ve served wur cause. If they could dae away wae you noo, they would dae away wae you, because you’re a drain on society…They want me, noo, to work til I’m sixty-seven. I’ve no chance of working to I’m sixty-seven. I’ll no’ see sixty-seven.’ Similarly, another respondent, reflecting on ‘austerity’ and so-called ‘welfare reform’, simply said, “I think they’re trying to kill folk aff”.

They sense that deliberate action was taken by government to destroy the industries on which their communities had depended, and to undermine the strong and more solidaristic community relationships which had prevailed in the past. A respondent from Kilmarnock said: “She [Thatcher] allowed a’ the work to go abroad. And oor factories in Kilmarnock…we had a great town, and it just finished. Factory after factory, well-known brands…employers went. They all went wi’ a feeling o’ sorrow but it didnae help the workers.” Another ex-miner from Cumnock, reflecting on the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike across the UK, said: “looking back you can see the preparation got made. And they really backed the union into a corner … it was to diminish the power of the unions and fragment communities”.

Where ‘negative lifestyles’ exist within these communities, they are seen as closely connected to broader social and political circumstances. Another ex-miner told us how downwardly spiralling morale and behaviours in his community were rooted in changing circumstances: ‘The factories started slimmin doon, cutting workforces. The ability for young people to get into work was becoming limited. We started to see probably drugs in our community for the first time. And probably the excessive drinking was starting to take a hold as well…’ Further, not all of our participants were able to understand their current poor health in terms of their own behavioural decisions – as we indicate in the title of our research paper – one man in poor health summed up this personal conundrum by saying ‘I don’t drink; I don’t smoke – the only thing wrong with me is my health’.

Participants are conscious of current day political strategies to set poor and struggling communities apart from the rest of society. One young woman said: ‘They are using the media…tae bombard folk wi’ … the good old ‘divide and conquer’…it’s like stigmatising full groups at a time. It comes in waves. I mean, the immigrants’ll be due a shot…it’s a’ their fault. It’s like they’re trying to deliberately create this, ‘Everybody that’s on incapacity’s a scrounger.’”

All in all, our research participants provided a vivid articulation of links between politics, policies, deindustrialisation, damage to community fabric and impacts on health. We ask: given the way in which these lay participants’ understandings of health reflect (and enrich) the views of researchers, should our participants and the many who share their stories, actually be the ones educating policy makers and practitioners, rather than being seen as the recipients of perennially failing health education messages? What might be the impact of turning the traditional health education model on its head? How would such a shift in who is doing the educating be received by policy-makers and practitioners?

Mhairi Mackenzie is Professor of Public Policy in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow.  Chik Collins is Professor of Applied Social Science in the School of Media, Culture and Society at the University of the West of Scotland. John Connolly is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of West of Scotland.  Mick Doyle works for the Scottish Community Development Centre. Gerry McCartney works for NHS Health Scotland.

If you enjoyed this blog you may also be interested to read Policy, Politics, Health, and Housing in the UK.

Reposted with kind permission from: http://discoversociety.org/2016/04/05/policy-briefing-how-politics-and-power-create-poor-health-i-think-theyre-trying-to-kill-folk-aff/

Why social inequality persists

IMG_3926by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P Conference 2015.

The second plenary session of the Policy and Politics Annual Conference was delivered by Prof. Danny Dorling, who provided a shocking and somewhat scary analysis of the increasing levels of inequality in the UK. The big question for us all to consider is why there is no consistent challenge to this situation and why we appear to accept the disparities that exist. Why is it acceptable and why would anyone think inequalities are a good thing?

One answer to the question is that we don’t actually realise how unequal we are as a society. But a quick look through some of the statistics soon provides the evidence we need. Danny took us through graph after graph that more than adequately demonstrated just how big the problem is and that it is increasing. One example to illustrate the point, in 2010 the best off tenth of the population in the UK were nearly 14 times better off than the worst off tenth. By 2015 this had grown to more than 17 times better off, and if the trend continues on a similar course in less than 20 years the best off will have over 24 times as much disposable income as the worst off. The problem is that the change is gradual, we don’t notice it so much and we get Continue reading Why social inequality persists

From Tools to Toolkits in Policy Instrument Studies

Ishani Mukherjee
Ishani Mukherjee

Ishani Mukherjee, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, discusses her article on the new design orientation in policy formulation research. Written with Michael Howlett and Jun Jie Woo, this article is available now on fast track.

At a time when policymakers are tasked with developing innovative solutions to increasingly complex policy problems, the need for intelligent policy design has never been greater. A rekindling of the policy design discourse has emerged over the last few years, in response to the globalization ‘turn’ of the late 1990s – early 2000s. This approach eclipsed design thinking Continue reading From Tools to Toolkits in Policy Instrument Studies

Policy unpacked: Alex Marsh and David Sweeting discuss directly elected mayors

Alex Marsh and David Sweeting
Alex Marsh and David Sweeting

In the array of panels at this year’s Policy and Politics conference were three linked panels on directly elected mayors, containing twelve papers from five countries. These panels linked clearly to the overall conference theme of challenges of leadership in collaboration in the 21st century. Directly elected mayors are often seen as a reform to help improve the leadership of cities, in part by facilitating or leading collaboration between actors both within, and well beyond, the boundaries of urban areas.

The panels, and the topic of directly elected mayors more generally, are addressed in Alex Marsh’s ‘Policy Unpacked’ series of podcasts, hosted on Alex’s blog. You can listen to the podcast here.

David Sweeting is Senior Lecturer, and Alex Marsh is Professor, in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. Alex is also Head of the School.

Collaborative Governance: why, when and how?

Tessa Coombes
Tessa Coombes

by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P conference

Collaborative governance: why, when and how? That was the question posed by Prof Chris Ansell, University of California, in the opening presentation to the Policy & Politics Conference 2014. Chris described himself as a ‘nervous fan’ of collaborative governance when used as an alternative to a more adversarial system. He discussed the need to be careful that we don’t over sell the concept and don’t use it as a generic strategy to do everything – wise words indeed.

So, what do we mean by collaborative governance? The definition offered by Prof Ansell was as follows:

‘Collaborative governance is a governing arrangement where public or private stakeholders engage in a multi-lateral decision making process, that is formal, consensus-oriented and deliberative, that aims to directly make or implement policy or manage programmes or assets.’

We were then taken through a discussion about why, when and how we should use collaborative governance:

The ‘why’ question was about managing conflict more fruitfully, creating collaboration amongst stakeholders and looking at real issues or problems. A process of taking us away from adversarial politics and into a more engaged and cooperative approach to governance.

The ‘when’ question focused on three fairly obvious conditions, including when resources are available, when discretion exists to enable participation and when joint processes of negotiation are necessary. A further three conditions were identified as potentially more restrictive and included, where the trade off between risk and gains is worth it, where there is positive mutual interdependence amongst stakeholders and where the process for collaboration is fair, inclusive and unique.

The ‘how’ question was about a facilitated social learning process. This process is about leadership and stakeholders learning from each other through an iterative process. It involves five stages from face-to-face discussions and trust building, to gaining commitment and joint ownership of the process and finally to intermediate outcomes. One of the key points here is why stakeholders come to the table, often for very different reasons and potentially even when they are not committed to collaboration, but at least they do participate.

One of the interesting issues to come out of the examples used by Chris, was why do people engage and what motivates stakeholders to take part in collaboration? Which is where issues about trust building and face-to-face engagement help to break down traditional barriers and potentially reduce tensions between stakeholders. But it’s also where it becomes clear that different stakeholders enter the discussion with different levels of advantage or disadvantage. Some groups are very organised, others less so, some have resources to draw on, whilst others don’t. It’s also the case that some may engage for negative reasons and may not be fully committed to the idea of a collaborative process, coming to the table with more of a watching brief.

One of the questions from the audience focused on why stakeholders engage and how their involvement is perceived by others. This was a particular issue for environmental groups where they are often accused of ‘selling out’ by involvement and collaboration rather than the more usual route of adversarial politics. For environmental stakeholders and lobbyists this often requires a delicate balance of assessing risks against the potential benefits of participation.

Another important question was about the key role of the facilitator – should this be someone with local knowledge, but who may also have a particular position to defend, or should it be an independent professional mediator brought in as a neutral facilitator, or can you use both? A critical point as facilitation is clearly crucial to the success of collaborative processes.

A further question was raised about how you measure and define success if the goals are not agreed at the beginning. Success has to be seen as more than merely yielding a group of happy stakeholders at the end of the process.

For me the key lesson was about how we use collaborative governance, mostly as a productive approach to sorting out political conflict, rather than as an answer to everything. A measured approach that which starts with thinking about what collaboration can achieve and when best to use it.

Tessa Coombes has just completed the MSc in Public Policy at Bristol University, is a former Bristol City Councillor and regularly blogs about policy, politics, and place.