What does the policy community look like from the other end of the telescope? In academia, assumptions abound: that evidence speaks for itself; that policy levers are linear and in abundance; and that political will is a given if the evidence is robust in itself. Here, Stephen Meek, formerly from Whitehall and now heading up a major policy institute, probes further and paints a highly nuanced picture of the practice of policymaking. His observations will help academics refine what the challenge of policy engagement actually is. Shamit Saggar
Perhaps universities have been underestimating their potential strengths in shaping public policy? It seems like a strange assertion. The grounds are based on understanding the rise of university policy institutes: how able are they in safeguarding independence and trust, delineating roles and operating nimbly in synch with policy cycles? Bobby Duffy, new-ish to academia, reflects here on this initial spell heading up the Policy Institute at King’s, London. Shamit Saggar
Research-led universities have often stood in the shadows of modern thinktanks in influencing policy agendas nationally and internationally. Until now. The past few years have seen the rapid growth of university ‘policy shops’ of various kinds, many of which have successfully begun to shape policy thinking and policy design. What lies behind this turnaround? Patrick Diamond, a former special advisor and now an academic political scientist, sheds light on the story in the United Kingdom, and posits that the future looks promising for university policy engagement. Shamit Saggar
What about efforts at counter-radicalisation in societies with a prevailing commitment to managing social, ethnic and religious diversity? This should involve operationalising pluralist ideas so as to address sources of alienation. Singapore’s mosque-based educational policy program is examined here by Rizwana Abdul Azeez. She argues this program falls short, serving to minoritise Islam and the country’s Muslims with potential unintended consequences. Shamit Saggar
De-radicalisation is a broad term that comprises many ideas and practical actions. It is important to examine what is involved at a more granular level and here Raafia Raees Khan describes a specific, multi-faceted program in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in the country’s far north. There may be scope for policy learning and borrowing for other countries, including multi-ethnic, multicultural societies such as Australia. Shamit Saggar
The nature of radicalisation is changing rapidly. The phenomenon is increasingly atomised, nested in grievances, motives and everyday lives that are difficult to penetrate for policymakers. Here Michele Grossman examines these shifts and the perceived asymmetry between Islamist-inspired and far-right violent extremism. She concludes that a credible strategy to tackle these challenges relies, more than ever, on community based responses alongside criminal justice ones. Shamit Saggar
Radicalisation in contemporary Tunisia has emerged as an important flashpoint, spilling out of the Arab Spring. The impacts have been felt across the Middle East and Europe, and most notably the rise of ISIS. Leila Ben Mcharek looks here at the radicalisation of Tunisian youth and the way in which the energy of the original revolution became diverted towards jihadist militancy. The example contains important lessons about the spread of extremism through deliberate and non-deliberate forces. Shamit Saggar
Australia’s approach to countering violent extremism has developed considerably in recent years and an important pivot has been a fresh emphasis placed on how communities can support prevention. Hass Dellal discusses the key issues underpinning current thinking and practice, and calls for an independent policy think-tank to lead future work and galvanise a more evidence-based approach. Shamit Saggar
Evidence about Islamist-inspired radicalisation and violence
- Shamit Saggar
Almost two decades on from 9/11 a substantial body of research knowledge has been gathered about the nature of Islamist-inspired radicalisation and violence in western countries. This contains many rich points of relevance to policymakers, and quite a lot that is not so obviously useful. So what is known and what insights for policy have resulted?
There are three areas in which there have been important breakthroughs in the evidence base informing policy formulation.
The common mantra of research-led universities today is twofold: that they are here to advance the frontiers of knowledge and here to serve society. The latter is laudable, for sure, and speaks to a key rationale behind the UWA Public Policy Institute. But what is standing in the way of the best minds working successfully with government, commerce and non-profit organisations? Michael Schaper, a former Australian national regulatory tsar, reflects on the obstacles and suggests that we are headed in the right direction. Shamit Saggar
In her interim account of the recent Indonesian elections, Ella S. Prihatini points to significant levels of volatility in parties’ vote share, important breakthroughs by some new parties and the unprecedented fatigue created by a single-day electoral event. Shamit Saggar
As Australia heads to the polls next month, we begin to look at key issues voters will consider. Here, Glenn Savage (UWA) argues that while the main parties emphasise quality and standards, their means of doing so (in terms of funding, autonomy, curriculum and leadership) vary considerably. Shamit Saggar
I find myself surprisingly stuck on Brexit. The inconclusive struggles thus far cast a light in the dark corner of how the UK is governed, relying on a part-written, uncodified constitution. It does not seem fit for purpose now that the limits of the political system have been tested. This is a conclusion I had not expected to draw.
As Indonesia prepares next week for its mammoth elections involving 193 million potential voters, Ella Prihatini (UWA) examines the wisdom of crowding so much into a single day of voting. She notes that the financial and efficiency rationales are weak in practice, and that the downsides include hidden disadvantage for women as both electors and candidates. A rethink might be on the cards for future elections. Shamit Saggar
In the second of our guest opinion pieces on Brexit, Marion Fulker (CEO of the Committee for Perth) looks at the long historic links between the Brits and Perth. From a yearning to create a warm climate Britain to wines and airlines, the relationship has been richly nourished. But the future could see Brexit refugees in large numbers who may carry mixed feelings about where they came from. Shamit Saggar
In the first of our Brexit-themed contributions, James Campbell-Sloan examines the longer run implications of the UK-EU rupture (if and when it happens). He observes that beyond some damaging consequences for Britain’s economy, Australia is not immune from the negative fallout – both in terms of the returns on its specific UK investments and through the departure of a good ally from the table of future Australian negotiations with the EU. Shamit Saggar
As the region’s largest democracy goes to the polls, Hadrian G. Djajadikerta (ECU) discusses the probable scenarios and implications, suggesting that the presidential election is the incumbent’s to lose. He notes that faith continues to have an indirect role in shaping political choice and that the outcome will be important to the story of embedding democracy. Shamit Saggar
Two generations on from the end of the White Australia policy, the capacity for race to influence electoral politics remains. But the impacts are complex and run in several directions. As Juliet Pietsch explains, economic and cultural insecurities are at play, and are not limited to White Australians only. Shamit Saggar