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Deliberative Policy Analysis, Action Research and Sustainability Transitions

Policy Analysis
Political Theory
Policy Change
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Koen Bartels
University of Birmingham
Panel Discussant
Koen Bartels
University of Birmingham

24/08/2018 11:00 - 12:40
Building: VMP 9 Floor: 3 Room: A315
When Deliberative Policy Analysis (DPA) was published, Hajer and Wagenaar (2003) argued we needed a different type of policy analysis, one that allowed us to grasp the increasing complexity of globalized societies and networked governance. They proposed an epistemological and methodological move towards interpretation, deliberation, and practice. This moral-analytical programme would generate more relevant and usable knowledge by interpreting situated meanings and local knowledge, learning from practical engagement in everyday situations, and facilitating deliberation and learning among stakeholders.

Fifteen years later, the world is in an even more complex and alarming state of affairs. Climate change, the financial-economic crisis, mass migration, and extremist populism are only some of the political, social, economic, and environmental crises that have demonstrated the unsustainability of hegemonic systems and the urgent need for change. This asks for research that not only creates more usable knowledge but also generates immediate action, improves relationships, builds capacities and resources for reflexivity and change, and promotes democracy, social and cultural justice, and sustainability.

Action research, co-production, participatory research and collaborative research offer valuable methodologies in this respect. Based on their three core elements of action, research, and participation, they offer a broad family of approaches for collaborating with policy actors in producing scientifically and socially relevant knowledge and transformative action. It is therefore no coincidence that action research and related methodologies are increasingly used for fostering policy change and sustainability transitions (see Bartels and Wittmayer, 2014, 2018).

While DPA and action research seem to advance similar epistemological and methodological programmes, there is only limited cross-fertilization. Bringing them more closely in conversation with each other raises a number of important questions:

• In which ways has DPA contributed to policy change and sustainability transitions?
• What analytical and methodological tools does it offer for making a difference?
• How do the principles of action, research, and participation feature in DPA?
• How do the pillars of interpretation, deliberation, and practice feature in action research?
• In which ways does or could DPA inform a distinct approach to action research?
• How can the epistemological and methodological grounding of action research be better tailored to the nature of policy processes and dynamics?

The goal of this panel is to reflect on how cross-fertilisation between DPA and action research can strengthen our ability to foster policy change and sustainability transitions. Contributions should in particular explore how epistemological and methodological choices work together in addressing concrete issues, combining substantive discussion of sustainability crises with reflection on the research approach and process. We especially welcome contributions from other fields than policy analysis, studies located in the Global South, and collaborative reflections with practitioners. We strongly encourage non-traditional papers and presentations, including film, photo, narrative, performance, and social media.

Paper List

Title Details
Integrating the Policy Perspective in Action Research Through Deliberative Policy Analysis: Lessons Learnt in the Basque Country View Paper Details
Letting it Grow: Experiential Learning in Social Innovations Below the Radar View Paper Details
The Potential of Deliberative Policy Analysis: Examining the Role of Bureaucrats in Energy Transitions View Paper Details
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