Great news. Following on from the Q conference at the University of Birmingham, a special issue of Operant Subjectivity (the Q methodology journal) is about to appear coedited with Dr. Rachel Baker from Glasgow Caledonian. The issue showcases four great papers applying Q to issues of public policy and public administration. The authors and their papers are profiled below.
Baker, R. and Jeffares, S (eds.) (2013) Public Policy, special issue Operant Subjectivity: The International Journal of Q Methodology, 2013, 36(2): 69–161.
Operant Subjectivity: The International Journal of Q Methodology, 2013, 36(2): 73–92
Young Loyalties: Loyalty Conceptions and Loyalty Conflicts of Young Dutch and English Public Administrators
VU University Amsterdam
Gjalt De Graaf
VU University Amsterdam
Abstract:Public administrators nowadays find themselves in a differentiated polity, which affects them in many ways. Images of the new public administrator clash with the classic images of the ‘old’ one: the public administrator who neutrally and obediently carries out orders of elected politicians. Since Weber, many interesting studies have been done on the separation between administration and politics. In this literature it becomes clear that public administrators today serve many masters, not just politicians. Do any of the interests of their masters contradict each other? Among the various objects of loyalty—colleagues, the public good, administrators’ consciences, administrators’ organizations, the law, the organizations’ clients, and elected officials—where do the loyalties of young public administrators lie? In this study we focus on the loyalties young public administrators, that is, on the future of governance. Generational differences could have implications for, for example, recruitment, training and development, rewards and working arrangements, and management styles. To answer the research questions, we conducted an international comparative study. Twenty young English administrators and 20 young Dutch administrators Q sorted statements on their loyalties. The answer to our main research question turns out to be a mix of all possible loyalties. Our results describe five conceptions of loyalty. These results are compared to previous Q studies on the loyalties of older Dutch administrators and to a recent comparative Q study on English and Dutch administrators’ democratic subjectivities. We found two typical Dutch loyalty conceptions and two typical English loyalty conceptions. Finally, we found that different loyalty conceptions mean different loyalty conflicts.
Operant Subjectivity: The International Journal of Q Methodology, 2013, 36(2): 93–113
Building Democracy: Community Development Corporations’ Influence on Democratic Participation in Newark, New Jersey
Tia Sherèe Gaynor
Abstract: The study seeks to demonstrate how stakeholders in the US city of Newark, New Jersey, perceive the role community development corporations (CDCs) play in presenting residents with opportunities to engage with their local government. In the United States, CDCs are community-based organizations that work toward revitalizing the built environment and addressing social issues within urban and rural communities. Often, CDCs encourage residents to be more active in local government in order to influence the decisions that most impact their communities. A Q-methodology study of stakeholder perceptions on CDCs’ influence on participation in local government, drawing from Arnstein’s “ladder of participation,” contributes to a better understanding of the subjectivity associated with residents’ participation and the actions that foster or constrain that participation. Research findings suggest that stakeholders perceive CDCs to create and encourage avenues for participation that preserve the existing state of affairs. However, stakeholders’ views also indicate that residents can benefit from initiatives that transfer power away from the public administrator to them.
Operant Subjectivity: The International Journal of Q Methodology, 2013, 36(2): 114–134
Understanding Deliberative Citizens: The Application of Q Methodology to Deliberation on Policy Issues
Australian National University
Abstract: This article argues that deliberation provides a suitable method for understanding what the public ideally wants when it comes to decision making. Q methodology provides the basis for an ideal approach for understanding what is happening during deliberation and for developing a deeper understanding of the choices being made. The approach reported in this article involves using Q sorting in conjunction with a survey of policy preferences, both administered before and after deliberation. The focus is a deliberative process conducted to decide the future of the ageing Fremantle Bridge, where the issue involved conflicting values. The Q analysis revealed three main positions (factors) in relation to the issue, each tending to correspond to different kinds of options for replacing the bridge. Overall, deliberation resulted in a move away from concern about the heritage value of the old bridge and toward a safety-oriented position. There was also a corresponding change in preference in favour of options that participants believed would improve safety. The approach provides information that is useful for policy making because it identifies the main reasons driving the formation of public opinion and the circumstances in which opinions change when the public is given the chance to fully reflect on the outcome.
Operant Subjectivity: The International Journal of Q Methodology, 2013, 36(2): 135–161
Q Methodology to Support the Design and Evaluation of Stakeholder Dialogue
TU Delft, The Netherlands
Abstract: Most of today’s pressing societal problems—such as issues related to energy supply, food, biodiversity and mobility—are characterized by scientific uncertainties and high stakes. Policymakers have to deal with situations in which different people (scientists and stakeholders) have different ideas about what exactly the problem is and how it should be solved. These types of policy problem have been labelled wicked problems. Stakeholder dialogue can be used as a vehicle to inform policymaking on wicked issues. A stakeholder dialogue is geared towards learning about the diversity of perspectives on a problem and its potential solutions. This process of problem structuring needs to be supported by specific tools, methods and procedures. One of the biggest challenges for stakeholder dialogues is to find methods that can be used to design and evaluate dialogues in a way that does justice to the wicked nature of the policy issue at stake. Q methodology is a useful and appropriate method for selecting stakeholders who represent the diversity of perspectives and for evaluating the learning about perspectives that occurs in stakeholder dialogue. This article demonstrates how Q methodology was applied for these purposes in a stakeholder dialogue on sustainable bioenergy in the Netherlands.