Advocacy Coalitions Framework – a video

The “Advocacy Coalition Framework” is a very useful tool for researching and thinking about how public policy does – or doesn’t – change, especially on really contentious issues.  It looks at how groups of actors that have enough in common bond together to try to get all/most of what they want.  I’d heartily recommend you read more on it, if politics is ‘your thing’;  Paul Cairney’s 1000 word essay is a very good place to start. 

Here’s a rough video I made about it.  It’s been too long since I was making politics/sociology concept videos, and I plan to do more, starting with “punctuated equilibrium” theory and “policy streams”.

Other further viewing

Another video on the topic.

Other reading:
Advocacy Coalition Framework Overview

Policy Studies Journal Vol 39, no 3 (2011) is a special issue. The introduction is dead handy.

See also A Guide to the Advocacy Coalition Framework by Christopher Weible and Paul Sabatier.

Brilliant satire and observations of the games of academia/science

“The first step is to create a task force to develop a proposal for funding for a workshop as a preparatory step toward a conference. Once you get funding for a workshop, you’re pretty well along for getting funding for a conference, because the workshop can compile a list of problems that the funding agency had better not ignore. The conference confirms the findings of the workshop. And the funding agency is on notice. If something big goes wrong, someone can pull up an old report and charge that you were warned about it but didn’t do anything. The press really goes for old reports that were ignored. Get that workshop, and you’re on your way.”

So advises “Grant Swinger”, Director of the Centre for the Absorption of Federal Funds.  Swinger is of course a satirical creation – while many would say this stuff privately, you’re not supposed to say it out loud, or the spell loses its magic.  He’s the creation of Daniel S. Greenberg, an American science journalist who has been observing the games of politics and policy for over 50 years, and has written some very well regarded books.  Including a novel “Tech Transfer” which looks like great fun too.

In 1988 he did a Grant Swinger Q and A about ‘the Greenhouse Effect’ that is hysterically funny, and will end up in my PhD if I can help it…


The game’s the game, yo?
See also:

Michael Frayn’s The Tin Men

Ian McEwan’s Solar

David Lodge’s Campus novels (and especially the character Morris Zapp),

Gilbert Adair’s The Death of the Author and

Malcolm Bradbury’s “Mensonge”

Repost: Kevin Anderson interviewed on outcomes of Paris

Reposted from Manchester Climate Monthly.

Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre Manchester kindly agreed to a further interview.  In this first part we discuss the outcomes of the recent UN climate conference in Paris, the reality of fossil fuel subsidies and the signal the Paris agreement may (or may not) send to big business and investors.

Parts two (on psychology and hope) and part three (on what is to be done, what is NOT to be done and so on) will be posted on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Part One
What Kevin wrote about Paris (on techno-utopias)

Clive Hamilton’s website (links to particular post-Paris post)

Looting the Ivory Tower: On #climate adaptation and local authorities

reposted from here.

LootingIvoryTowers amended.jpgPaper(s) under discussion

Porter, J.,Demeritt, D. and Dessai, S. 2015. The right stuff? informing adaptation to climate change in British Local Government. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 35, pp. 411-422.

What’s the issue? (and why should we care)
Are British local authorities pulling their fingers out and taking long-term adaptation action? If not, why not?

What do they have to say?
In 2003 many local authorities didn’t know about the robust work on climate impacts that had been done, but were relying on newspaper articles (Gaia help us all). Ten years later most everyone has the ‘right’ information, but austerity and the Conservatives’ bonfire of the National Indicators (e.g. 188) means that there is still hardly anything happening. Everyone points the finger at someone else. Reframing climate adaptation as “weather resilience” might help get local councillors interested.

How convincing is their methodology?
It’s good! They did a web-based survey that had a reasonable (25%) response rate, and then followed it up with 20 semi-structured interviews. Used Nvivo for coding those interviews, did some statistical tests. Compared some 2003 work on barriers with what they’ve discovered.

What would a critic say?
Mmm. This article actually does what it sets out to do. There’s lots of “whataboutery” that you could do – on neoliberalism, on bureaucratic inertia, on cross-country comparisons, but this is an article, not a book, and the references point you in the direction of lots of useful material.

What else could they have said
There’s two papers I’ve recently read that would have been interesting to see these authors include
One is on where this wretched term ‘resilience’ comes from – looking at Buzz Holling/Fred von Hayek
Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation. Security Dialogue April 2011 42: 143-160,
Another on blame-shifting in local authorities (But only came out in October, so, absent a time machine, Porter et al. can hardly be blamed!)
Symbolic Meta-Policy: (Not) Tackling Climate Change in the Transport Sector
Political Studies Volume 63, Issue 4, pages 830–851, October 2015.

It’s interesting (but not wrong!) that the authors did not consider civil society/social movement pressure as a factor.  The British state is so centralised, and NGOs so obsessed with Westminster and marching in London, that local authorities come under very very little pressure from civ soc.  Oh well.

What else do these people refer to that looks interesting?
Hjerpe, M., Storbjörk, S., Alberth, J., 2014. There is nothing political in it: triggers of local political leaders’ engagement in climate adaptation. Local Environ. 1–19.
Meyer, M., 2010. The rise of the knowledge broker. Sci. Commun. 32, 118–127.
Meyer, R., 2011. The public values failures of climate science in the US. Minerva 49, 47–70.
Mukheibir, P., Kuruppu, N., Gero, A., Herriman, J., 2013. Overcoming cross-scale challenges to climate change adaptation in local government: a focus on Australia. Clim. Change 121, 271–283.
Preston, B., Mustelin, J., Maloney, M., 2015. Climate adaptation heuristics and the science/policy divide. Mitig. Adapt. Strategies Global Change 20, 467–497.

What are the implications for (Manchester-based) activism?
“Whereas a decade ago local authority staff were unable to find scientific
information that they could understand and use, we find that these technical-cognitive barriers to adaptation are no longer a major problem for local authority respondents”
Yes, it’s merely the technical-competence barriers that we need to worry about in Manchester. And the utter lack of political will.

Usefulness for my PhD
Well, not on topic, but this qualitative research article looks good-

Baxter, J., Eyles, J., 1997. Evaluating qualitative research in social geography: establishing ‘rigour’ in interview analysis. Trans. Inst. Br. Geogr. 22, 505–525.

Their argument in a tweet: Local authorities did nothing on climate because no good info. Now because no money, no pressure.
Should activists pay attention? Yes. Neoliberalised Local Authorities like Manchester are saying “let the devil take the hindmost”. That’s not good public policy.
Should activist try to read the source material, or is this summation probably All A Busy Activist Needs To Know?
Use the Source, Luke.
Summary suffices.


This post is the first of twelve promised “Looting the Ivory Tower” blog posts that I will write this calendar year, where I try to summarise academic findings for a ‘normal’ audience.  You can help by;
a) letting me know how I did
b) suggesting topics or specific articles that I could tackle

Star Wars non-review. Good links

I was going to review Star Wars The Farce Awakens. Actually can’t be bothered.  Here below are the links I had accumulated that were pretty cool.

The wife liked it, but then she has had years of practice at keeping her expectations reaaaallllly low.

Retro-futures and lack of imagination

On the gender dynamic and here.

What type of twisted fantasy world does George Lucas live in where dudes just spend all day whacking their long, cylindrical swords together without any women nearby? Wait. Don’t answer that.

And push back against TFA as feminist from those clods at the National Review.

The best of all, though, is a review of the first three films (as in 1977 to 1983) by a guy called Jonathan Rosenbaum!!


The Luke Skywalker twitter feed is worth a look, if you like that sort of thing.