T10P02 - Relational Approaches to Policy Analysis

Topic : Methodologies

Panel Chair : Nick Turnbull - nick.turnbull@manchester.ac.uk

Panel Second Chair : Hendrik Wagenaar - h.wagenaar@sheffield.ac.uk

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

Call for papers

Session 1 Conceptualizing relational approaches to public policy

Wednesday, June 28th 14:00 to 16:00 (Block B 3 - 6 (35))


Nick Turnbull - nick.turnbull@manchester.ac.uk - University of Manchester - United Kingdom

Hendrik Wagenaar - h.wagenaar@sheffield.ac.uk - University of Sheffield - United Kingdom

Relational Public Administration

Nick Turnbull - nick.turnbull@manchester.ac.uk - University of Manchester - United Kingdom

Koen Bartels - k.bartels@bangor.ac.uk - Bangor University - United Kingdom

The idea has recently started to spread that relationships are at the heart of public administration as well as a vision for transforming it towards greater effectiveness and democracy. While this idea resounds with many relational approaches in our field, a widespread appreciation of the significance of relationality seems to be missing. Remarkably enough, there is no overview of the great variety of relational approaches and interpretations, their similarities and differences, strengths and limitations, and emerging insights and joint research agenda. Therefore, this paper canvasses relational perspectives in public administration and related fields to articulate what relationality means, how it has been used, and what this implies for future research and practice. In close conversation with the subfield of relational sociology, we propose a categorisation of relational approaches into four types. We especially highlight the differences between studies that analyse and conceptualise how relationships manifest themselves and matter on the one hand and studies of relational theory and practice which make epistemic arguments about relationality. Altogether, we argue that relational public administration enables us to better account for socially situated individual practices, understand social power and inequality in the new public governance, and foster more productive and democratic relationships.

What is a Policy Field? A Relational Approach to Policy Theory.

Hendrik Wagenaar - h.wagenaar@sheffield.ac.uk - University of Sheffield - United Kingdom

The purpose of this paper is twofold: to further develop the concept of policy field by articulating a link between systems thinking, practice and dialogical meaning, and to map how the concept might inform policy theory.[1] The concept of policy field is common in the German-speaking world, but less so in Anglo-Saxon theory (Hösl & Krueger, 2014). Policy fields are seen as configurations of ideas, actors, interests and institutions. In that sense they are meant to transcend common concepts such policy subsystems and policy networks. In this paper we articulate the concept of policy field through a relational approach to policy analysis. Relational thinking is anti-dualist and focuses on processes instead of entities. Its unit of analysis is practices, and how these evolve and constitute the world around us. Its aim is not only to formulate representations of the world but, deliberately taking the perspective of the policy actors, who design and instigate change in complex, densely interconnected, dynamic systems. This requires a rethinking of the nature of knowledge as being animated and enabled by experience and practice.[2] Using examples from the domains of prostitution policy as well as climate change and human-nature relations, particularly water, the paper articulates how such a relational approach to the concept of a policy field policy analysis can be understood and enacted.  

[1] Ison, R. (2010) Systems Practice: How to Act in a Climate Change World, Springer
[2] Wagenaar, H. & Cook, S.D.N., (2011) “The Push and Pull of the World: How Experience Animates Practice”, Evidence and Policy, (7), 2: 193-212; Cook, S.D.N. & Wagenaar, H., (2012), Navigating the Eternally Unfolding Present; Toward an Epistemology of Practice". American Review of Public Administration, (42) 1: 3-38; 


Seeing Ahead -- Relationally

Wolf Amanda - amanda.wolf@vuw.ac.nz - Victoria University of Wellington - New Zealand

Policy analysis can be likened to driving full-speed ahead with a fractured windscreen, navigating by a tiny stream of data flowing in from a foggy rear-view mirror. Safely delivering citizen–passengers to their future wellbeing depends in part on the driver/analyst’s skills in iterating between the ‘known’ past and the unknown future. This conceptual–methodological paper considers the potential of relational approaches to policy forecasting. To see ahead, relationally, an analyst—bearing the standard of practical wisdom—iterates between what ‘evidence’ the present/past potentially offers and what the future plausibly requires. Relational policy analysis privileges case-to-case reasoning in support of a more insightful sifting of complicated policy experiences and evidence. The analyst apprehends localised policy-relevant situations, extracts relevant information from them, and works with people in them with respect to what may be, and then maps out and scrutinises possible routes to future, improved situations and how to get there. For example, a long-time homeless man who has rejected all support in the past is offered by chance an opportunity to volunteer at a garden centre, discovers a gardening passion which a social worker notes, and finally accepts a supported place in a house in order to continue to garden.


Initial assumptions set the scene as follows. Policy change is experienced locally, in diverse receiving environments. Ex ante, each policy-receiving environment is envisaged as the status quo plus the policy change at t +1. Therefore, whereas others use depersonalised trend analysis, theoretical prediction, ‘big data’ or experiments to estimate the future from the present, the relational analyst can profit from a case-wise comparison of a known situation with a desired one. Case comparison preserves the full range of relationships, and proceeds intersubjectively as emergent changes in the case are experienced and interpreted by both analyst and those whose behaviours policy would influence and whose wellbeing is ostensibly of interest. Consistent with a pragmatic tradition, relational policy analysts ‘talk’ with their passengers en route and adjust their speed, direction of travel and destination accordingly.


In sum, as elaborated in this paper, analysts work between cases (localised, current/immediate past and the next evolution), work in a second-person dialogic mode (iterating between stories in context as told and interpreted in the past and emerging situations of interest), and employ their own expertise (as any skilled driver must). Various ‘between-case’ methods are summarised and assessed, and illustrated with stylised examples.

Holding a referendum or not? Analyzing the decision process in the case of Stuttgart 21

Heike Brugger - heike.brugger@uni-konstanz.de - University of Konstanz - Germany

Antje Witting - antje.witting@uni-konstanz.de - University of Konstanz - Germany

Melanie Nagel - mel@drmichaelnagel.de - University of Konstanz - Germany

Stuttgart 21 is a huge infrastructural project to rebuild a railway hub in the heart of Europe. This project had been discussed controversially because of financial, technical, environmental, urban developmental and democratic reasons. Many citizens demanded more public participation and asked for a referendum about the project. Grassroot-activists and civil society groups initiated public protests and successfully used social media to attract crowd support. In our article we introduce a newspaper article-based case study combining discourse and social network analysis. The study explores the potential of the Institutional Analysis Development (IAD) framework comparing the process leading to the rejection of a referendum in 2007 and its acceptance in 2011. It consists of two backward-flowing diagnostic analyses: one between 2002 and 2007, leading to the rejection of the petition to hold a referendum. The second was between 2008 and 2011, leading to the 2011 referendum.


Applying Text Mining to Improve the Interpretation and Analysis of Network Subgroup Effects in Urban Environmental Governance Assessments

ROGER S. CHEN - csr@faculty.pccu.edu.tw - Chinese Cultural University, Taiwan - Taiwan

In recent years, social network analysis has been largely applied in literature of environmental governance and resource management, which illuminates how cooperation and social capital play a part in building stakeholder relationship and multilevel governance. However, the application of social network analysis still encounters the vagueness inherent in its subgroup analysis and the difficulties of data collection in an urban setting. In the paper, text mining is proposed to construct networks with specific stakeholder interactions that are able to assist the analytical interpretation of subgroup effects, specifically the indications of bridging/bonding ties. Furthermore, applying text mining on solid and traceable information extracted from event-based digital data is not only able to identify stakeholders and their interactions, remedy the problems of data reliability, but also construct stakeholder networks in desired dimensions for subgroup network analysis. Based on the stakeholder networks with specific meanings, social network analysis is applied in the paper to assess the water-related resilience building in Tainan city, located in the south of Taiwan. The results of the analysis suggest that incorporating text mining in social network analysis offers an useful alternative for data collection and data processing to encompass the urban complexity and helps to advance the theoretical interpretation of bridging/bonding measurements that are important concepts in social network analysis for studying environmental governance and management.

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