Interpretive Political Science as a Tool for Understanding Policy Making in Practice - Sarah Ball

Interpretive Political Science as a Tool for Understanding Policy Making in Practice - Sarah Ball

Policy-making is an ongoing process of negotiation and mediation of meaning but this side of policy often goes unnoticed, made up of ‘hundreds of practical judgments, the everyday, taken-for-granted-routines and practices’ (Wagenaar). This research draws on key concepts from Bevir and Rhodes’s interpretive political science to bring to light how traditions shape this process of meaning making within the public sector, and how this can explain why some interpretations of policy concepts gain traction over others. In past research I have used this approach to explore the translation of behavioural insights and the three traditions which shaped how behavioural public policy was understood. This paper outlines how these ideas can also contribute to understanding of emerging issues such as the use of AI and the ongoing challenges facing collaboration between the public sector, academia and NGOs.

Sarah Ball is a lecturer in public policy. She is currently working on an ARC Linkage Project titled ‘The new digital governance of welfare-to-work’ and an ESRC project exploring 'Ethics and expertise in times of crisis: Learning from international varieties of ethics advice'. Prior to this she completed her PhD at the Institute of Social Science Research at the University of Queensland. Her research explored the use of behavioural insights and experimental methods in the development of social policy in the Australian Federal Government. She has worked for both the Australian Public Service Commission and the Department of Social Services, where she developed a deep interest in public administration, knowledge sharing and evidence-based policy.

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Date & time

Fri 19 Apr 2024, 12–1pm


Seminar Room 3.72 or Zoom


Sarah Ball (University of Melbourne)


Nick Cheesman


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