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Crystal balls or Christmas Baubles? Risk-Based Policymaking and the Institutional Modulation of Risk

Dr Henry Rothstein
King's College, London

Date: 16 November 2010
Time: 1.00pm-2.30pm
Venue: NAB1.14

Abstract

Risk has become a central organizing concept of governance in recent years, exceeding its long association with harms to the environment, health and safety. Proponents of risk-based policymaking argue it can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of policy interventions, but critics argue that its potential benefits are undermined by the challenges of putting it into practice. This paper draws on research conducted with Dr John Downer to examine the factors shaping the adoption and implementation of risk-based policymaking by the UK Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra). Building on a wide range of studies of the factors shaping the way that organizations operationalise risk management, the paper considers whether risk-based approaches challenge policymaking, or simply reframe and reinforce current practices in ways that are 'institutionally modulated' by pre-existing values, beliefs and ways of working. The paper concludes that risk-based policymaking serves varying and sometimes conflicting objectives, in particular navigating conflicting pressures to account for policy outcomes whilst avoiding blame for failure, and that this has important implications for achieving desired policy outcomes.

About the speaker

Henry Rothstein is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Deputy Director of the King's Centre for Risk Management at King's College London. His main research interests concern the institutional factors that shape the way that risk governance develops, works and fails within the public and private sectors and across policy domains.

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