What are the current trends in IPA?

First Virtual Community of Practice meeting for Interpretive Practitioners

Prof. Hendrik Wagenaar at the CoP meeting

By Severine van Bommel

On Monday 5 October at 5 pm AEST, 9am CET, the first meeting of the Virtual Community of Practice for Interpretive Practitioners was held. The topic of the first meeting was new trends in Interpretive Policy Analysis. Our special guest this meeting was Prof. Hendrik Wagenaar who shared his views on current trends in IPA with us.  In preparation for the meeting everyone had read two publications that recently came out on this topic:

– Ercan, S.A., Durnová, A., Loeber, A. and Wagenaar, H., 2020. Symposium: revisiting the three pillars of Deliberative Policy Analysis. Policy Studies, pp.1-24.

– Bartels, K., Wagenaar, H., & Li, Y. (2020). Introduction: towards deliberative policy analysis 2.0.

We had a very nice diversity of participants from various parts of the world (9 different countries from Europe, Asia and Australia). Participants were in various stages of their career (from full Professor to early career researchers).

The video link on Zoom worked perfectly. We first introduced ourselves and expressed what drew us to this Community of Practice on Interpretive Policy Analysis. After that Hendrik Wagenaar introduced the articles. We then had a lively and far-reaching discussion about Deliberative Policy Analysis 2.0 and the new trends in Interpretive Policy Analysis. After this rich discussion, Hendrik Wagenaar gave a short reflection on the issues discussed.

Going back to the original 2003 Deliberative Policy Analysis book we discussed that the three pillars of Deliberative Policy Analysis advanced a lot since then. But despite the relational focus of much of the interpretive research, we observed that the three pillars had mostly advanced on their own without much combined effort.

We discussed if some approaches are downplaying others? Are action research approaches and practice approaches downplaying Foucauldian approaches and vice versa? What is the tension between understanding and reshaping/transformation? And what is the pragmatism of the ‘doing’ aspect of it?

We also discussed the how the approach as outlined in the articles can be used in practice. What is the intention of these authors? We used to have the IPA conference with people interested in Critical Policy Studies, Discourse Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis, Post-structralist discourse theory, Action research, etc. Is the intention of the authors to create a new umbrella for IPA or is it something else? Are the authors wanting us to embrace this approach in totality using the three pillars in a detailed way? Or could you do a bit of mixing and matching?

The two articles also discuss emotions and the role of emotions. How are emotions influencing Deliberative Policy Analysis? What is the relation between emotions, interpretation and meaning? Which emotions are relevant? Only anger or are other emotions also relevant? What about emotions as a form of perception or discernment similar to the way that Martha Nussbaum is writing about it?

Last but not least we discussed our current times. We noted that originally the argument was that Deliberative Policy Analysis is best suited to times of network governance. In mature democracies deliberative processes work very well but they don’t quite work in the same way in new democracies or evolving democracies. We wondered if the Deliberative Policy Analysis approach still suited to the times that we are in now which are characterised by the rise of right wing extremism, post-truth and post-politics? Are we just not wiped out by this decline in all these democratic values and processes? How does this relate to the flourishing citizen movements that we see all over the world? How can we understand this?

For the next meetings, we agreed that we wanted to meet once every two months. We also felt that we needed at least 1.5 hours for the discussion. We agreed that during the meeting we wanted to explore the current context of post-truth politics that we are finding ourselves in and we wanted to discuss what the contribution of IPA could be in such a context.

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