How and why do civil society actors change their modes of activism and strategies under the condition of shrinking civil society space in authoritarian states? Previous studies have tended to juxtapose participatory activism, associated with broader mobilisation, and transactional activism, based on coalition building and professionalised civil society organisations. Using the illustrative example of the environmental social movement organisation RazDel’niy Sbor (‘Separate Collection’) in Saint Petersburg, we demonstrate how the strategic repertoire of civil society organisations changes from participatory to transactional activism over time. The study takes a dynamic outlook on strategies and explores how transactional activism and professionalisation are built on the previous successful participatory phase. Furthermore, the study expands our understanding of the participatory mode of activism that is interpreted in an innovative and safe way to avoid repression in the authoritarian political context of modern Russia.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders claimed that their public health policy decisions were ‘following the science’; however, the literature on evidence-based policy problematises the idea that this is a realistic or desirable form of governance. This article examines why leaders make such claims using blame avoidance theory. Based on a qualitative content analysis of two national newspapers in each of Australia, Canada and the UK, we gathered and focused on unique moments when leaders claimed to ‘follow the science’ in the first six months of the pandemic. We applied Hood’s theory to identify the types of blame avoidance strategies used for issues such as mass event cancellation, border closures, face masks, and in-person learning. Politicians most commonly used ‘follow the science’ to deflect blame onto processes and people. When leaders’ claims to ‘follow the science’ confuse the public as to who chooses and who should be held accountable for those decisions, this slogan risks undermining trust in science, scientific advisors, and, at its most extreme, representative government. This article addresses a gap in the literature on blame avoidance and the relationship between scientific evidence and public policy by demonstrating how governments’ claims to ‘follow the science’ mitigated blame by abdicating responsibility, thus risking undermining the use of scientific advice in policymaking.
A popular explanation for governments’ persistent enthusiasm for evidence-based policymaking (EBPM) is its expected capacity to solve policy conflict. However, research is divided on whether or not EBPM actually has a positive impact on conflict. On the one hand, EBPM is said to introduce a set of principles that helps overcome political differences. Simultaneously, EBPM has been criticised for narrowing the space for democratic debate, fuelling the very conflict it is trying to prevent. This article explores how EBPM structures policy conflict by studying the example of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in policy processes through reconstructive interviews and ethnographic observations. It argues that, although EBPM channels conflict in a way that prompts engagement from stakeholders, it also escalates conflict by misrepresenting the nature of policy processes. As such, the findings suggest that managing process participants’ expectations about what evidence is and can do is key in fostering productive policy conflict.
The conditional cash transfer programme (CCT) for poor families was terminated in Mexico in 2019. CCTs seek to fight poverty under a social investment logic by promoting the formation of human capital through the compliance of behavioural conditionalities. The programme – the first of its kind introduced at national level – accomplished several achievements and was maintained and developed by three successive federal administrations. As the backbone of anti-poverty policy for more than two decades, its achievements included delivering positive results to a significant proportion of the population; and triggering the expansion of social policy beyond social insurance. As a result, it was emulated by governments across the globe. A programme of these characteristics would have been expected to generate path dependency and policy stability, yet it was swiftly terminated with practically no opposition. This article applies a framework of historical institutionalism to analyse the feedback effects developed during the duration of the programme from the perspectives of beneficiaries, in order to contribute to the explanation of its termination. The research is based on qualitative empirical data from interviews with former beneficiaries. Our findings show that self-undermining mechanisms linked to a ‘hard’ design and implementation of conditionalities counterbalanced the self-reinforcing mechanisms derived from the benefits supplied by the programme, causing beneficiaries to become apathetic towards its continuity or termination. Conclusions yield theoretical insights that might serve to examine policy feedback in similar contexts, as well as lessons for policymakers regarding the design and implementation of social programmes.
This paper presents learning and insights drawn from the Fulfilling Lives (FL) programme – an eight-year programme funded through the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) and delivered across 12 sites in England. The programme aimed to improve services for people facing multiple disadvantage (MD) and was delivered by 12 partnerships, each led by voluntary sector organisations (VSOs).
The findings were supplemented by interviews carried out with delivery partners, stakeholders and people with lived experience (LE) from one of the 12 projects, Birmingham Changing Futures Together (BCFT). The review and supplementary interviews were conducted as part of a ‘scoping exercise’ designed to help the author shape and refine research questions at the outset of her doctoral study.
The focus of this paper is the involvement of people with LE in the delivery of the NLCF FL programme. The research questions explored the mechanisms used to involve people with LE of MD, the impact that their involvement was found to have on effecting ‘systems change’ and some of the limiting factors to this involvement. The paper sets out the conditions needed to facilitate better involvement and considers what these insights offer for the future design and delivery of services for VSOs seeking to develop their approach to involving people with LE.
RAPAR applies our participatory action research methods to amplify the living experience of families seeking asylum in the UK who are in ‘contingency accommodation’, aka ‘hotels’, and claiming human rights abuses on these sites. From all over the world, these people are without status in the UK and are therefore without recourse to the public funds that are, theoretically, available to everyone living in the UK with status. Their complete legal dependence on the Home Office and its subcontractors to ‘look after’ them and deal with any complaints leads to the question: why would anyone choose to challenge any organisation about human rights violations when that same organisation exercises such profound control over their day to day living reality? The data comprises contemporaneously collected evidence from individual correspondence, questionnaires, semi-structured conversations and case studies with hotel residents. Our preliminary analysis demonstrates considerable failures of statutory bodies in implementing their statutory duties. No evidence of meaningful investigation by any implicated statutory authority, or their privatised sub-contractors, into the human rights violation allegations asserted by hotel residents has been produced. The Local Authorities and the NHS insist that the Home Office is responsible for hotel residents within their boundaries. In turn, the Home Office, including Greater Manchester Police and sub-contractors Serco and Migrant Help, have failed to address the allegations in any transparent way.
We call for immediate action that enables hotel residents to safely protect themselves and stimulates inclusive solution-making, with them, to end these human rights violations.
Efforts to better understand what prevents institutions from changing to meet contemporary demands – or what facilitates the evolution of existing constructs to address new challenges – are of particular import and relevance to environmental governance. While the existing literature provides valuable conceptualisation and empirical evaluation of institutional stability and change, the lack of a consistent and holistic typology complicates the evaluation of institutions over time. In this article, we use a combined stability–change typology to assess the dominant modes of institutional change and stability over a multi-decadal timespan across three environmental governance systems – air quality governance in the US and China, and climate governance in the European Union. Across cases, we find that these modes are not mutually exclusive but can occur simultaneously, in concert or in conflict. We also find that observed patterns of change and stability are reflective of the social and political context in which systems operate, as well as the focus of the system itself (for example, localised air quality versus global climate change). Apart from providing a proof-of-concept analysis of institutional change and stability, our findings raise questions about the mechanisms underlying spatial and temporal patterns across identified modes. Indirectly, our findings also further highlight challenges to designing systems both resilient to exogenous stressors and capable of adapting to new situations. Our combined stability–change typology may help to advance understanding of whether and how such balancing has occurred in the past, thus facilitating future efforts to address contemporary challenges.
The aim of this article is to explore the types of health evidence that diverse actors find most persuasive in a complex policy system. The impact of evidence depends on many factors, including how it is presented and translated to audiences. If diverse actors are to address complex health challenges collectively, it helps if they can draw on evidence that is accessible and meaningful to all. We explore how this can be done through a case study of promoting healthy urban development in the United Kingdom. Based on 132 in-depth interviews with critical actors from across the urban development system, we examined the types of evidence actors find most helpful. While there was some variation by sector, actors revealed a strong preference for narratives with a strong emotional impact, supported by credible evidence. Urban development decision makers are persuaded by both qualitative and quantitative evidence, although there was a slight preference among the public sector for quantitative data. All actors valued evidence on the impact of the urban environment on population health outcomes and the associated costs of ill health. There was, however, a preference among private sector actors for evidence showing economic valuations of health that demonstrate a commercial advantage. Our findings make an important contribution to the evidence-based policy literature by identifying the types of health evidence that appeal to diverse actors in the urban development system. These insights can be used to design evidence that meets the requirements of all actors in a complex system.
Addressing the central theme of structure and agency, this chapter explores the dilemma that decision-making entails structural power often controlled by elites, while transformative change often happens through the agency of people power and collective action. Key to enabling transformation is the relationship between mobilisation and democratic institutions; we need more democracy (more equalising structures) and more mobilised citizens (more agentic power). The dominant form of power in political parties needs to relate to and facilitate the transformative power of mobilisation. The first section of the chapter briefly contextualises the structural power of capital, corporations and elites and addresses the importance of engagement of people in ideational debate in rich forms of participatory and deliberative democracy: a form of institutional democracy described as ‘high-energy democracy’. The second section discusses strategies for collective mobilisation, arguing for coalition-building and mobilisation around environmental, gender and social reproduction and traditional distributional concerns about income equality and public services. Arguing that necessity is the mother of coalition, the combined evils of environmental destruction and inequality merit a new political mobilisation in the form of a triple movement. The chapter concludes by discussing Ireland from the perspective of movement-building, examining various constellations of actors, and clusters of mobilisations.
The book integrates ecological and social arguments in identifying the problems and solutions to issues of contemporary sustainability. Intentionally light in its presentation of theory, key concepts discussed include commodification, globalisation, sustainability, institutions, services, income, participation, imaginaries, transformation, and power. The book focuses on the problem; the cojoined realities of increasing inequality and environmental destruction, and part of the solution; a recast welfare system as an ecosocial welfare system capable of enabling society to meet the challenges of achieving sustainability and equality. Ecosocial welfare reflects the transformational potential of social policy. It is mapped, in this book, as specific reform proposals combining enabling institutions, universal basic services and income support (Participation Income). The intention is to enable different outcomes for work, income, time and care, and facilitate socially useful work and flourishing lives.