As the leading publisher in Social and Public Policy, we publish in the core social sciences to highlight social issues, advance debate and positively influence policy and practice.
Our list leads the way on conversations around inequality and social injustice featuring authors such as Peter Townsend, Kayleigh Garthwaite, Danny Dorling, Pete Alcock, John Hills and Bob Jessop. Series including the International Library of Policy Analysis and Research in Comparative and Global Social Policy bring international, high-quality scholarship together in order to address globally shared challenges.
Our key journals in this field are the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, an internationally unique forum for leading research on the themes of poverty and social justice, Policy & Politics, ranked 15th of 49 in Public Administration and celebrated its 50th year in 2022, and Evidence & Policy, dedicated to comprehensive and critical assessment of the relationship between researchers and the evidence they produce and the concerns of policy makers and practitioners.
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Writing more than two decades ago, Smyth and Dow (1998, p 291) wrote that ‘outcomes appear to have become part of a naturalised and largely uncontested discourse’, which has ‘rendered others irrelevant’. Recently however, public management scholarship has begun to engage seriously with the measurement and management of social outcomes as a theoretical and conceptual matter. A viable and compelling alternative conception to the RTOC has since developed within public health, social epidemiology, and health geography scholarship, positioning outcomes not as products of service production chains but as the emergent properties of complex systems. We expand on this model in a public administration context to construct an alternative model, the CTOC.
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How can public services and social interventions create and sustain good outcomes for the populations they serve?
Building on research in public health, social epidemiology and the social determinants of health, this book presents complexity theory as an alternative basis for an outcome-oriented public management praxis. It takes a critical approach towards New Public Management and provides new conceptual inroads for reappraising public management in theory and practice. It advances two practical approaches: Human Learning Systems (a model for public service reform) and Learning Partnerships (a model for research and academic engagement in complex settings).
With up-to-date and extensive discussions on public service reform, this book provides practical and action-oriented guidance for a radical change of course in management and governance.
This chapter draws together the book’s contributions and sets out a working model for building complexity-capable public services. It revisits Alex and Amy’s story from the introduction to illustrate how this service reform trajectory can feel challenging and uncertain in practice, but also deeply necessary. We end the book by setting out a broad research agenda to prompt critical engagement with this new service reform trajectory. We describe five key questions we consider the most significant: the accountability question, the assurance question, the unintended consequences question, the pragmatism question, and the research question.
This chapter explores a novel approach to implementing a complexity-informed management practice in public and non-profit organisations, HLS (Lowe and Plimmer 2019; Lowe et al 2020a; 2020b; 2021; Human Learning Systems Collaborative 2021). We describe the principles of HLS and its genesis into a substantial service reform coalition involving more than 300 organisational members, drawing on evidence from a rich cohort of case studies.
We highlight a strengths-based perspective implicit in HLS, which illustrates how reformers have harnessed agency, assets, and capabilities to purposefully embed more human, learning-oriented, and systemic practices in service contexts. The relational work involved in this is central to this examination and offers a lens through which we can understand the struggles, strategies, and investments involved in service reform practice in organisations and systems.
This chapter introduces the book’s subject by focussing on one service interaction in a UK local authority. This story is used to illustrate the book’s central point: opportunities to improve lives and outcomes are routinely missed by the way we have chosen to design and administer public services. The chapter then describes the intent and structure of the text.
Our analysis of complexity poses a new organising question for scholars, managers, and practitioners: how can public service systems be supported to build the requisite capabilities to manage the complexity demanded of them? In this chapter, we approach this question from a research perspective, and discuss how a ‘learning partnership’ methodological approach between researchers and practitioners can support the development and elaboration of a complexity-informed practice. We draw on two substantive learning partnerships with UK charitable foundations – the Lankelly Chase Foundation since 2017 and the Tudor Trust since 2018 – to discuss how this research approach can help public service organisations to build their dynamic capabilities.
This article provides an important international empirical application of the multiple-streams framework with some theoretical additions that make a novel contribution to the existing scholarship in this field. Using a modified multiple-streams approach (MSA) that extends Kingdon’s original agenda setting model to the decision-making stage, we analyse and explain an empirical puzzle in the context of the environmental regulation of coal-fired power plants, considered central to India’s economic development. The puzzle involves both the content – a stringency comparable to those in more developed economies – and the timing – within a year of a new national government coming to power with the promise of reviving economic growth. Our findings show how a top bureaucrat exploited the agenda window opening in the problem stream to couple the three streams, resulting in the notification of draft environmental standards. The political entrepreneurship of the same bureaucrat led to the adoption of final standards in the same form as the draft in the decision window created by developments during the period leading to the Paris climate summit. The operationalisation of the modified MSA to our empirical case generated new theoretical insights. First, we expand on the original formulation of decision stage dynamics and argue that the decision window could also open due to independent activity in any of the three streams. Second, we argue that transnational politics could act as an additional factor in the ripening of the political stream at the decision stage.
This chapter charts the evolution of the ‘outcomes’ imperative in public service reform, tracing its conceptual and rhetorical roots as public management practice diverged from traditional public administration, took hold during the NPM reforms of the late 20th century, and evolved into more elaborate models of outcome-based management such as impact investment, outcomes funds, and social impact bonds in the recent ‘governance’ era.
We show how this evolution embodies an RTOC which combines the technical rationalism of management control systems theory (Kaplan and Norton 2015; Smith and Bititci 2017), with the behavioural rationalism of Public Choice Theory (Buchanan and Tulloch 1962) and Agency Theory (Jensen and Meckling 1976). We take note of a range of empirical evidence which suggests that models deriving from this theoretical perspective deliver something approaching the opposite: worse outcomes at greater cost.
This chapter brings together the insights from analysis of the three study areas. It begins by considering the four sources of support in the analytical framework (markets, state, voluntary and community sector, and family and friends) and how they act cumulatively to offset or reinforce social exclusion and financial vulnerability. Much local employment is precarious with volatile and unpredictable incomes creating financial vulnerability. Welfare reforms have intensified this precarity, redistributing risk towards the most vulnerable. Specific rural dimensions arise from the volatility of incomes, digitalisation and digital exclusion, difficulties in accessing advice and support and typically lower claimant rates. Additionally, people experience higher costs of living and widespread fuel poverty. Voluntary and community organisations are active in supporting people disadvantaged by markets and the state, and their services are highly valued but under-resourced. There is a tendency to idealise rural communities as places where everyone looks after one another, but this may be more difficult for those who do not understand local social norms and lexicons or who are less well embedded in social networks. This suggests a need for synergies between person-based measures (such as welfare entitlements) and local, place-based measures (such as advice and support).
This chapter offers some closing reflections on the original contributions of this study to the understanding of poverty and social exclusion in rural Britain and on implications for policy and practice. It begins by reflecting on the main themes emerging from this study and highlights some of the new insights which have emerged. After reviewing previous studies’ suggestions for policy interventions, this chapter argues for an approach which combines person-based and place-based policy approaches to social exclusion in rural areas. Some of the most pressing policy challenges are then highlighted, including the cost of living crisis and the rural blindness of the UK welfare system, and practical opportunities for policy development to address these are proposed. The chapter ends by reflecting on issues of power and governance, and on the extent to which the framing of rural communities as self-reliant and resilient might facilitate the withdrawal of the state from rural areas and the abdication of its duty to rural citizens.