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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Contemporary governments face dwindling resources and populations who feel disconnected from political systems. In response, both governments and scholars increasingly explore more participative governance approaches. Such efforts have coalesced around ‘co-creation’, a way of governing through collaboration between public and private actors, often including citizens. Increasingly, scholars emphasise ‘co-creation platforms’: devices that use reconfigurable structures and resources to facilitate multiple instances of co-creation. By creating platforms, advocates claim, governments can facilitate widespread co-creation without unfeasible costs. Some even encourage governments to adopt platform-creation as their way of governing – so-called ‘generative governance’. Yet, with governments being time- and cash-poor, they cannot participate in every such co-creation initiative themselves. To realise the promise of generative governance, platforms must enable governments to facilitate co-creation initiatives at arm’s length.

While, however, research suggests that governments can be successful platform-users, we know little about how successfully they can forge platforms to encourage co-creation among others. Consequently, we conducted a nested case study of the creation and use of one novel platform: London Borough of Culture. Theorised through literatures on platforms, and co-creation’s drivers and inhibitors, our findings affirm that platforms can facilitate co-creation. However, they also uncover how platforms fashioned by politically-led organisations become entangled in political dynamics that inhibit co-creation. Two contributions follow: first, platforms made by politically-led bodies enable, but simultaneously constrain, others’ co-creation; second, drivers and inhibitors of co-creation can be strategically shaped by interventions (for example, platforms) to maximise the chances of that co-creation succeeding.

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Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) encompasses a variety of policy frameworks that seek to use the potential of science, technology, and innovation to address societal challenges. To do so, it relies on inclusive co-creation processes for the design, implementation and evaluation programmes and policies that can drive systemic transformation towards sustainability.

Aims and objectives:

To date there are few empirical studies available on how this co-creation approach can be implemented at the level of programmes and projects working on transformative innovation, and what specific competences, processes and functions are required for the successful implementation of this framework. This paper seeks to provide empirical evidence on how to implement TIP at the project level.

Key conclusions:

This paper shows the importance of adaptability and modularity of processes that are used to translate the TIP framework to a specific context, allowing and encouraging processes of adaptation by project partners and other stakeholders. Secondly, we highlight how knowledge services can be used to translate and negotiate meaning for complex frameworks, resulting in the production of new knowledge that is not only contextually relevant, but that feeds into a larger pool of evidence of how theories apply to real-world cases. Thirdly, it highlights the importance of building teams with skills such as facilitation, brokering, communication, translation and embedding of science-based concepts and frameworks, and the ability to lead processes of co-design that ensure coherence across different interventions while being adaptable to varied project contexts.

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