There has been a rapid increase in the number of, and demand for, organisations offering behavioural science advice to government over the last ten years. Yet we know little of the state of science and the experiences of these evidence providers.
Aims and objectives:
To identify current practice in this emerging field and the factors that impact on the production of high-quality and policy-relevant research.
A qualitative study using one-to-one interviews with representatives from a purposeful sample of 15 units in the vanguard of international behavioural science research in policy. The data were analysed thematically.
Relationships with policymakers were important in the inception of units, research conduct, implementation and dissemination of findings. Knowledge exchange facilitated a shared understanding of policy issues/context, and of behavioural science. Sufficient funding was crucial to maintain critical capacity in the units’ workforces, build a research portfolio beneficial to policymakers and the units, and to ensure full and transparent dissemination.
Discussion and conclusion:
Findings highlight the positive impact of strong evidence-provider/user relationships and the importance of governments’ commitment to co-produced research programmes to address policy problems and transparency in the dissemination of methods and findings. From the findings we have created a framework, ‘STEPS’ (Sharing, Transparency, Engagement, Partnership, Strong relationships), of five recommendations for units working with policymakers. These findings will be of value to all researchers conducting research on behalf of government.
To support evidence-informed decision making in a health service context, there is a need to better understand the contextual challenges regarding evidence use.
Aims and objectives:
To examine experiences of evidence use and perceived barriers, facilitators and recommended strategies to increase research use among senior decision makers in the national health service in Ireland.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with decision makers in Ireland’s national health service (n= 17) from August 2021 to January 2022. Criterion sampling was used (division in the organisation and grade of position), and interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Barriers and facilitators were mapped according to multiple-level categories (individual, organisational, research, social, economic, political) identified in the literature.
Health service decision makers described a blended and often reactive approach to using evidence; the type and source of evidence used depended on the issue at hand. Barriers and facilitators to research use manifested at multiple levels, including the individual (time); organisational (culture, access to research, resources, skills); research (relevance, quality); and social, economic and political levels (external links with universities, funding, political will). Strategies recommended by participants to enhance evidence-informed decision making included synthesising key messages from the research, strengthening links with universities, and fostering more embedded research.
Discussion and conclusion:
Evidence use in health service contexts is a dynamic process with multiple drivers. This study underlines the need for a multilevel approach to support research use in health services, including strategies targeted at less tangible elements such as the organisational culture regarding research.
The current design of UK public policy and mainstream political and social discourse has consistently equated paid work with good citizenship and desirable parenting. The article presents findings from a recent qualitative study that explores how lone mothers with different moral rationalities judge themselves before and after making a transition from welfare (and being full-time carers) to paid work. The findings suggest that the design of public policy and related discourses worked well with the moral rationalities of some lone mothers who believed that paid work made them better mothers. However, it left others with moral values on direct care behind, as they suffered from physical and emotional exhaustion and feelings of guilt in paid work. The article highlights how dominant ideologies reinforce the pre-existing hierarchy of paid work and care, with the latter being viewed as deserving of less acknowledgement.
Scholars of childhood typically view children as agentic; poverty researchers, aware that poverty reduces children’s life-chances, may be tempted to consider them as victims. Adults experiencing poverty report feelings of powerlessness, and, by analogy, poverty may reduce children’s agency. However, comparatively little is known about the impact of poverty on child agency or the extent to which children use their agency to mediate the effects of poverty. Therefore, 55 low-income children from two Chinese schools were invited to participate in group discussions and qualitative interviews spread over several hours. Considering poverty to be multidimensional, children identified that their agency was restricted both by poverty and their status as children but argued that they were not without agency. This was confirmed in interviews with parents and teachers. Six strategies were identified that children use to ameliorate poverty’s effects. The strategies group into three pairs, the first strategy in each pair reflecting a child’s decision to accommodate to their circumstances with the second being an attempt to alter them. The first pair (norm adaptation and active communication) comprised coping strategies addressing the present; the second pair (self-improvement and self-sacrifice) were expressions of constructive agency; and the third pair (lowered expectations and rebellion) were partially acts of despair. Giving greater recognition to children’s attempts to improve the lives of their families and themselves may lead to more effective modes of policy intervention.
Research on environmental volunteering suggests that nature bonding is crucial to promoting citizen engagement. However, predominant research on volunteers’ initial motivations overlooks the creation of bonds between people and nature over time. To understand the nature bonding from a temporal perspective, this article examines significant life experiences of volunteers of a self-organised citizen-based river group in Barcelona Metropolitan Region. Through a qualitative study involving 25 interviews with members of this group, different types of significant life experiences (formative and reinforcing) and associated psychological drivers (others-oriented, place-oriented and self-oriented) are identified. Maturation and interaction of experiences and drivers throughout volunteers’ life stages determines the evolution of self-nature bonding, that starts unconsciously and becomes conscious and complex, leading to place attachment and moral commitment. The shift from mere identification of volunteers’ initial motivations to a holistic understanding of their bonds with nature over time provides insights for promoting the self-organisation of citizen-based groups that can play a significant role in collaborative environmental governance.
The theoretical evolution of punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) and empirical expansion of its research agenda to non-democratic countries, demonstrate that democratic nations feature less punctuated policymaking than autocracies, owing to informational advantages. However, can these differences be identified cross-sectionally across numerous political systems facing a common policy problem? To assess this, we present a broad and robust empirical analysis of PET dynamics across 166 countries over three years for a single policy issue that affected all nations: the COVID-19 pandemic. First, we theoretically link PET with the concepts of policy learning and bounded emulation and propose the emergence of mini cycles of punctuated equilibrium during a crisis. Then, using weekly data, we examine univariate distributions of COVID-19-related policy changes to better understand how punctuated policy dynamics have differed between political systems. Using multiple approaches, we demonstrate (1) the emergence of PET mini cycles during crises and (2) an absence of macro-level differences in PET dynamics across democratic, partially democratic and autocratic countries. Our evaluation of policy change distributions across a wide range of political systems in a crisis context offers notable insights into the generalisability of PET dynamics. Thus, our article offers novel advancements to PET scholarship both theoretically and empirically.
Building on remarkable and sudden fundraising success during the Covid-19 pandemic, many National Health Service (NHS) charities in England and Wales have undergone a period of rapid organisational transformation and growth. This article explores these developments by considering how claims to distinction contribute to new organisational identities and allow access to valuable resources and funding opportunities. After situating recent developments within the policy background and key changes in governance and regulation since the 1990s, we report on interviews with directors and trustees of NHS Charities Together (NHSCT), the national membership organisation of NHS charities. These offer new insight into strategic shifts and the desire to form a distinct and unified identity for NHS charities. Highlighting ongoing tensions and debates within the sector, findings raise important questions over the role of NHS charities and their position in relation to the NHS and the state.
Research on evidence-based volunteer management, especially regarding episodic volunteering, is limited. Thus, we examine the influence of individual traits of event volunteers and the management practices employed by non-profit organisations on their likelihood to engage in future events. First, we revisit the value of episodic volunteering within the framework of regenerative volunteer management. We then compare factors affecting the inclination of event volunteers to re-volunteer for the same or for a different organisation based on a path analysis of 10,148 survey responses from event volunteers in 19 countries. Previous episodic volunteer experience, responsiveness, appreciation from supervisors and satisfaction with the event experience increase the probability that event volunteers will re-volunteer for both the same and different organisations. Moreover, assistance, service quality and comfort contribute indirectly by enhancing satisfaction with the volunteer experience. Effective management of event volunteering replenishes a valuable volunteer resource for both event organisers and other non-profit organisations.
This study explores the role of potential donors’ gender in prosocial behaviour, using an anthropomorphic lens. Its findings could aid non-profit organisations (NPOs) in eliciting individual charitable donations and thus accessing additional funding. A gender-neutral brand spokes-character was used as the stimulus in a survey questionnaire distributed via an online panel of 200 respondents, from which actual donation behaviour towards a South African NPO was captured. The data was analysed using multi-group moderation structural equation modelling (SEM). The findings indicated that potential donors’ gender plays a role in the relationships between brand anthropomorphism and prosocial behaviour in South Africa, highlighting the importance of context-specific considerations when exploring gender differences. Thus, contributions are made to understanding the role of gender in prosocial behaviour through a brand anthropomorphism lens. Practical context-specific insights related to actual donation behaviour in a developing country are also provided.
China, a country with a long history of government-coerced labour among commoners, has seen a striking rise of volunteering in the past three decades. At the same time, civil society in China has been rigorously constrained by the authoritarian state. This makes dubious the usually supposed linkage between volunteering and civil society development. Analysing a nationwide dataset, this study examines Chinese citizens’ volunteer participation from the civil and political engagement perspective. It finds that individuals’ engagement with the state, neighbourhood, and civil society all helped predict their decision to volunteer, but only a few factors concerning engagement in the neighbourhood and civil society were positively associated with volunteer hours when they decided to volunteer. The article concludes with discussion on the rise of volunteerism in contemporary China and its implication for civil society development.