Social and Public Policy > Citizenship and Civil Society
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Randomised trials have been on the rise in social policy over the last decade and a half, particularly in areas working with young people and vulnerable adults. Informed consent is an important principle for ethics committees governing research conducted by universities.
Aims and objectives:
We consider the arguments for and against opt-in consent by parents, and opt-out assent, when it comes to trials taking place, particularly in schools.
We review what is known about this from a methodological standpoint.
We find that extant evidence suggests that requiring opt-in consent, rather than assent, to participation, risks reducing the ethical standards of trials by minimising participation; and by potentially risking disclosure of sensitive information about a child’s life to their parents. Moreover, there are important equity considerations, with more vulnerable groups likely to be excluded from research findings under an opt-in framework.
Discussion and conclusion:
We conclude that the ethical argument for assent rather than consent is compelling under some circumstances, and should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Precautions must always be taken to safeguard participants.
By analysing the policy process leading to the introduction of interest registers in France and Sweden, this article argues that their use as a policy instrument was crucial for acknowledging and defining conflict of interest as a problem. It challenges rationalist approaches to public policy that focus on how the adoption of policy solutions follows the identification of policy problems, instead, favouring the acknowledgement of how problems and solutions can exist independently. To identify how interest registers became a preferred policy solution, the article traces how policies from the UK and US were integrated in the global anti-corruption toolkit in the 1990s and subsequently adopted in France and Sweden in the 2010s. It uncovers the sequencing of events, and, specifically, the evolution of public discourse on conflicts of interest around the adoption of public interest registers. It shows that interest registers contribute to (re)define the problem of conflict of interest in new contexts of adoption. The sequencing of events suggests that the problem of conflict of interest was rarely used before the instrument’s adoption and, what is important, did not have a clear ‘stabilised’ shared meaning. Interest registers thus give reality to the problem and modify its definition. By establishing which interests are to be declared in standardised forms, interest registers define new ‘risk areas’ for corruption. They also convey the idea that the problem relates to an asymmetry of information between elected officials and voters that can be corrected through transparency measures, shifting the locus of problem-solving responsibility to the public.
Femonationalism, that is, the use of women’s rights rhetorics to further racial stigmatisation and promote nationalism, has been of growing interest to social scientists on European contexts. While previous studies have provided insights on the racialisation of sexism in gender equality policymaking, there is still a limited understanding of how policy frames in particular national contexts can either exacerbate or mitigate femonationalism in the making of anti-gender-based violence policy. In particular, how do frames on race and racism impact the framing of anti-street harassment policies and, by extension, the ability to prevent femonationalism?
The article explores this issue by comparing the cases of France and Britain through empirical data with policymakers and activists intervening in policymaking against street harassment in France and Britain. Findings suggest that, even though French state actors claim their colour-blindness allows them to avoid a racist framing of the problem, it actually enables it. This in turn favours a racialised framing of street harassment and leads to an inability to address the potential risk of racial targeting in the criminalisation of street harassment. Conversely, the acknowledgment of racism in Britain favours an intersectional framing of street harassment and leads to greater consideration of the risk of racial targeting. By analysing how race repertoires unfold in policy pre-adoption phases, the article therefore suggests that nationally embedded assumptions about race have a significant impact on the framing of anti-gender-based violence policy and, in turn, on femonationalism.
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.
The Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) model is currently being employed in Uganda for deepening financial inclusion and poverty reduction. Despite its focus on women’s empowerment, concerns have arisen of an under-representation of women on VSLA leadership committees. Human rights-based, economic, and social justice arguments support active participation of women on VSLA leadership committees. The study sought to identify, explicate and characterise the barriers and facilitators to women in VSLA leadership. An exploratory study design using qualitative methods was selected to address the research objectives. Forty-nine focus group discussions were undertaken, featuring both VSLA members and non-members. VSLAs for inclusion in the study were randomly selected from within four regions of Uganda, stratified by: mature (>2 years old) versus new (<2 years old). The study exposed a diverse array of barriers and facilitators to women in VSLA leadership positions, revealing the influence of individual, material, institutional and social factors, in addition to social norms and gender characteristics, on women in VSLA leadership. The findings revealed that the design of interventions to achieve fair representation of women in leadership positions should be informed by an understanding of the different types, relative strengths, support for/against, and intersectionality of the factors impacting women in VSLA leadership.
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.
Recently, the rise of bottom-up approaches has become significant in realising social justice for vulnerable sections of society. One such attempt is the provision of charge-free legal aid services in many poor countries, including Ethiopia. This article aims to reveal the relevance of micro-justice as an effective remedy for poor people. The data generated from primary sources were analysed in line with rights-based and capability approaches. The findings of this study attested that such bottom-up approaches in access to justice, did not only help the beneficiaries in exercising their rights but also empowered them to lead their lives and determine their destiny.
This work adopts different approaches to analyse situations of poverty and extreme poverty in Spain during the last decade, considering different monetary thresholds, measures of severe material deprivation and the combination of both. The determining factors of these situations and the patterns that act as a link between extreme poverty and homelessness are also examined. The results of the study show that for the most restrictive thresholds of 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the median equivalised disposable income the smallest variations during the series are observed, confirming that situations of such deep poverty are not influenced by the cycle since they do not respond to economic stimuli. The determinants of extreme poverty suggest that public policies should be target towards high-risk groups, such as single person households, households with children, younger individuals, individuals with a low educational attainment, and of foreign nationality. Finally, an interesting result is that the profile of individuals in situations of consistent poverty have the greatest similarities to the group of people experiencing homelessness.
The benefit cap and the two-child limit were both introduced with the aim of promoting fairness. However, women are disproportionately affected by both of these polices. This article presents new empirical evidence that demonstrates the gendered impacts of the benefit cap and the two-child limit on mothers. It shows that the benefit cap and the two-child limit ignore the gendered reasons for women’s disproportionate subjection to the policies, devalue unpaid care, fail to recognise gendered barriers to paid work and ultimately, harm women in a wide range of ways, particularly by further entrenching them in poverty.