Governments around the world have been experimenting with ‘design thinking’ approaches to test new policy solutions. In ourrecent 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?→
Chances are, if you were in the “remain” and not in the “leave” camp, you probably think the referendum on Brexit should never have been called. And you probably wouldn’t be alone in that. Think back to the time when French and Dutch voters dealt a death blow to the EU Constitutional Treaty in the 2005 referendums. There were probably a good many people who thought the same thing then. As Qvortrup (2014) puts it, direct democracy “in recent years has thwarted cherished ideas and many a politician’s pet project”. Continue reading Direct Democracy: Political back-seat driving, without licence and under the influence?→
Professors Chris Weible and Paul Cairney were the successful applicants for our 2019 special issue call for proposals. This blog post summarises a recent workshop held in Colorado on their topic Practical Lessons from Policy Theories by way of presaging some of the key research themes they will pursue in their special issue.
Policy theories provide profound lessons for people trying to understand and engage with the policy process. As policy scholars we often take them for granted, but for non-specialists they can represent a new way of thinking. So, sharing these insights helps scholars and practitioners. Explaining our theories clearly gives us a new way to take stock of policy theory: how does it help us think about and act within the policy process?
by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P Conference 2015.
The Policy and Politics Annual Conference 2015 kicked off with a fascinating challenge to our thinking about democracy and the state. Mark Purcell, from the University of Washington, took us on a philosophical journey of discovery about the true meaning of the word democracy, concluding with the notion that the state and democracy are the antithesis of one another.
Mark offered us what he termed a minor current of thought to haunt our discussions and to stimulate new and better currents of thought throughout the conference. He premised his presentation on the idea that the state and democracy need to be seen as antithesis and that we do indeed need democracy.
The debate about power, according to Mark, is about more than we think it is and we need to think about it differently; we need to think of it as power to rather than over. That is, all people retain power to act into and change the Continue reading Democracy without the state→
Join us at the Marriott Royal Hotel in Bristol on 15th and 16th September to debate the relationship between democracy, inequality and power. This year will mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta providing an opportunity to reflect on the failures and successes of democratic policy and politics in the UK and around the world.
Some of the issues we’ll be discussing include:
austerity politics and the disproportionate impacts on society’s most vulnerable,
increased awareness of disparities in relation to electoral and political participation amongst a range of social groups (leading to concerns about ‘a divided democracy’),
the reshaping of the relationship between government, business and civil society,
rising ‘urbanisation’ and associated concerns about the governance of place, space and territory,
developments in information and communication technology and its impact on citizens’ engagement with politics and public services,
civic unrest linked to demands for democracy, equality and transparent government,
human rights initiatives around gender, age, race, disability and sexuality, and
a reconfiguration of the role of the mass media and social media in policy and politics.
by Tessa Coombes, guest blogger for P&P conference
Our first session this morning on the second day of the Policy & Politics conference was a fast and furious presentation from Prof Helen Sullivan, University of Melbourne, covering a wide range of issues relating to collaboration. The presentation sought to cover why collaboration can be seen as the new normal, a better framework for understanding collaboration, and the challenges this presents for policy makers and practitioners.
For many collaboration is inevitable to meet policy challenges, whilst others are waiting for the trend to disappear. Whatever the case, collaboration is more accepted as the ‘new normal’. In her presentation, Helen defined collaboration as “a more or less stable configuration of rules, resources and relationships; generated, negotiated, restricted, and reproduced by diverse interdependent actors”. A deliberately vague or open definition, that goes beyond our understanding of partnerships and cooperative relations, that brings with it a set of emotions.
The normalisation of collaboration has developed as a response to the Global Financial Crisis, which led to the view of austerity as a collaborative affair involving non state actors and citizens. Helen then identified a number of trends in collaboration which have seen the primacy of the collective replaced by the primacy of the individual:
New Public Management has evolved beyond marketisation
Globalisation and governance rescaling, creating elasticity of public policy across boundaries
Co-governance, reconnecting citizens to governing institutions
Innovation and the increasing importance of digital and social media
These trends together make collaboration more difficult, with human agency at the centre of collaboration emphasising the need to understand what motivates individuals to act. Helen proposed her own framework for how we might seek to better understand this concept, with the aim of directing attention to the more neglected aspects of collaboration. This framework has three dimensions: political, material and cultural, where the role of ideas, rules and emotions are particularly important.
The challenge for policy makers in all this is to understand collaboration, in terms of mood, practice and instrument where the role of power, interests, structure and agency are central to making sense of policy processes. With collaboration as the new normal, it can also be seen as a disruptive force for intervention, leading to improvements and new ways of doing things. The point was also made that public policy analysis needs to see the whole as well as the parts in order to develop a full understanding.
For me, and others in the audience, this feels like a huge agenda requiring interdisciplinary activity and understanding, but as a framework it enables you to think about those different aspects in an interconnected way.
Tessa Coombes has just completed the MSc in Public Policy at Bristol University, is an ex-City Councillor and regularly blogs about politics, policy and place.