Identification of policy body and policymakers
Using Policy to Identify Policy Makers
This report portrays the complexities and processes involved in identifying specific policy-makers. Utilising cultural policy in Birmingham I explore the ‘Big City Culture’ strategy; discussing the difficulties involved in policy research when seeking information merely from the policy itself.
Birmingham City Council
Birmingham City Council is a local government body; one responsibility of the council is the creation and implementation of multiple policies concerning the city of Birmingham. The council takes a hierarchical approach to the formulation of policy making; with the Corporate Strategy Team working to develop a ‘council that works together for a fair, prosperous and democratic Birmingham, (Birmingham City Council [BCC]; 2014). The Corporate Strategy Team joins up:
‘[t]he leadership infrastructure, supporting senior officers and leading Members, making sure that decisions are implemented efficiently and effective. CST provides public and media relations services and central government relationship management.’
Birmingham City Council: 2014
The Corporate Strategy Team has vertical functions; the Strategy Policy Team, Strategic Research Team and Strategic Development constitute just three of the key aggregations within the hierarchy. In addition the council focuses on creating a vision for the cultural sector in Birmingham through the Birmingham City Council Cultural Services. The Cultural Services branch of the council prioritises work from the ‘Council Plan’ and the ‘Cultural Strategy.’ Birmingham’s Cultural Strategy is ‘Big City Culture,’ a strategy that ‘expresses the shared priorities of the partners within the Birmingham Cultural Partnership.’ (BCC, Cultural Services: 2014)
Locating Policy by Birmingham City Council
I located the ‘Big City Culture’ policy through the Birmingham City Council website; through research of the Birmingham City Council Cultural Services. Big City Culture is identified as the cultural strategy for Birmingham – as it is presented by the City Council in the form of a hyperlinked webpage one can only assume that the strategy is formulated and implemented through Birmingham City Council.
Interestingly I note that whilst searching for a copy of the policy I located a PDF file from the Birmingham City Council website and another – heavily illustrated – copy through the Birmingham Cultural Partnership. Both copies differed slightly – in terms of language used, in the copy provided by the BCP there is a denser content of text; this may be an edited – final – copy of the strategy, whereas the BCC version contains text, with a lack of images. Furthermore, the BCC edition includes contact details for Simon Bennett (Birmingham Cultural Partnership Manager) – the BCP copy simply includes the arts team Birmingham as a contact. These differences are interesting when trying to ascertain the policy-makers of Big City Culture; this demonstrates the value of research when studying policy.
Big City Culture 2010 – 2015
‘Our strategy ‘Big City Culture 2010-2015’ provides a clear focus and articulates shared priorities for the development of culture in Birmingham.
‘This will assist effective strategic planning at a city, local and sector level. It has been developed by the Birmingham Cultural Partnership (BCP) who are responsible for overseeing its delivery.’
Big City Culture is a strategy that has been developed alongside other strategies created for the Birmingham 2026, the Sustainable Community Strategy for the city of Birmingham. Big City Culture constitutes the cultural component of the Birmingham 2026 strategy.
Through anatomizing and studying the policy it is feasible to uncover aspects of the policy making process; details of how the policy shall be evaluated, and who has an input in the formulation of the strategy is evident within the policy itself.
Who are the Policymakers?
Coherently identifying the policymakers for this specific strategy is complex, despite recognition of the ‘Birmingham Cultural Partnership’ (BCP) within the introduction. My point here is that although the BCP has been identified further exploration into this partnership is rather complex. Through initial research into the BCP several other partnerships appear, complicating the matter of identifying, or understanding how the BCP functions. The language within the strategy does not provide much in terms of recognizing individual policymakers. ‘Big City Culture’ is our joint commitment to ensuring that culture continues to play a key role in the development of Birmingham.’ (BCP, 2010: Foreword)The lexis ‘our joint’ implies that the policy is a product of multiple agencies striving toward one goal – developing Birmingham.
The Big City Culture strategy provides four key strategic themes that shall be developed by members of BCP and other organisations in the city. These themes I have discussed in the subsequent text in order to uncover any information within the policy that demonstrates those involved in the formulation of the strategy.
Theme A: Culture on Your Doorstep
Culture on Your Doorstep is the first strategic theme of Big City Culture. Instead of outlining the key points of this theme I shall note the information that is presented within the text that offers an insight into the processes of policymaking. The text highlights the consultation and research that has been undertaken to provide a starting point for policy – in this case it is: The Birmingham City Centre Masterplan: The Visioning Study by the Institute for Urban Affairs, Liverpool John Moores University 2007. Reference to other strategies and initiatives existent within Birmingham are also highlighted:
- Building Schools for the Future (BSF)
- The Total Place Initiative
- Be Active
The policy makers are evidently drawing upon extensive research into culture, again they identify – in the form of footnotes – research that has been drawn upon throughout the formulation of this policy. Such as: the Institute of Public Policy Research, Culture and Civic Renewal, 2006.
Theme B: Next Generation
The Next Generation strategic theme depicts the importance of cultural participation in young people. ‘Participation in culture is vital in ensuring the health and wellbeing of our young people.’ (2010: 9) The Next Generation strategic theme identifies ‘A Creative Future II’ as a key strategy for cultural entitlement within Birmingham. The Big City Culture strategy has mapped the key components of ‘A Creative Future II’ and identified any additional activities to be commissioned, such as promoting the Arts Award and Sports Leaders Award.
Reference to other strategies and initiatives existent within Birmingham in the Next Generation strategic theme:
- A Creative Future II
- Birmingham Sport & Physical Activity Strategy
- Five Hour Sport Offer
- Promotion of the Arts Award and Sports Leaders Awards
Indications of how the policy will be measured – evaluated – are present within the strategy. By 2015 the achievements of the Next Generation strategy will be measured through the ‘national indicator NI57.’
Theme C: Stronger Cultural and Creative Industries
This strategic theme explores the cultural and creative industries within Birmingham. It offers a brief insight into the ‘cultural quarters’ across the city – something which was recognized through mapping the creative industries in Birmingham. The question here though is who carried out this ‘mapping’ process? In the subsequent paragraph within this section of the strategy it states: ‘our primary strengths are in partnerships and organisational capacity.’ (2010: 12) As aforementioned earlier in this report the matter of determining who constitutes these partnerships is rather complex. The policy itself acknowledges these partnerships yet it does not directly state the members involved. Instead the Birmingham Cultural Partnership (BCP) is illustrated as ‘a cross-sectoral body comprising representatives from public, private and not-for-profit cultural organisations.’ (2010: 12) This statement provides a sense of those involved in formulating the strategy – potentially suggesting that a large team of agencies had an impact in the policymaking processes.
This sub-section of Big City Culture offers the most in terms of providing details of the policy-makers. Details of the BCP are outlined – albeit very narrowly – the partnership works alongside the Birmingham Economic Development Partnership (BEDP) to support Birmingham’s creative industries.
‘Partnership support goes beyond single-issue, single agency engagement to support individual and industry growth, infrastructure, audience and market development.’
Big City Culture, 2010: 12
It is evident that the policy-makers for Big City Culture are those involved in the partnership, and that this partnership intends to develop and build new programmes that shall help shape and nurture the creative and cultural industries.
Theme D: A Great International City of the Future
An indication that the strategy has been implemented through an organisation that frequently produces policy is evident within this sub-section of Big City Culture. ‘We are, in the Big City Plan (City Centre Masterplan), creating a city centre which can better serve our cultural offer,’ the pronoun ‘we’ refers to the policy-makers, in this case – Birmingham City Council. (2010: 15) This then demonstrates that Birmingham City Council has implemented several policies, such as the Big City Plan and Big City Culture. Further research into the Big City Plan shows that Birmingham City Council has also created partnerships, such as the Birmingham City Centre Partnership; these partnerships are imperative for Birmingham City Council’s policymaking process.
Within this Big City Culture strategic theme several references to research undertaken during the policy-making process are identified:
- European Cities Monitor 2009
- Regional perceptions indicator – West Midlands
- The Birmingham City Centre Masterplan: The Visioning Study
This portrays the breadth and depth of research undertaken to support the strategy, and to ensure the validity of the strategy.
Utilising additional platforms available through Birmingham City Council offers greater knowledge of the individuals involved in the creation of ‘Big City Culture.’ Although the policy itself presents Birmingham City Council (the Birmingham Cultural Partnership) as the key policy-makers specific names, or details, are missing. Though; one questions the need to include the names of policy-makers within the policy itself – is it relevant to the content included within the policy? Do those whom the policy serves need an awareness of those involved in the creation of the policy? – In fact, are those whom the policy serves aware of the policy itself?
Putting the latter two questions aside – they offer a separate potential piece of research – the need to determine policy-makers is of interest to me, certainly in terms of anatomizing a policy and understanding the origins of Big City Culture. Birmingham City Council has a useful archive available for research of democratic documents concerning the city. Through this archive I have sourced documents concerning Big City Culture from 2010.
A report – grey literature – from the Strategic Director of Environment & Culture on behalf of Birmingham City Council (Big City Culture UK City of Culture Public report) presented to Cabinet is available to the public. Its primary concern is the Big City Culture strategy with the intention of requesting Cabinet to: ‘endorse Big City Culture 2010-15, the refreshed cultural strategy developed by the Birmingham Cultural Partnership (BCP).’ The report supplies the policy-analyst with in-depth detail of the policy itself, and represents potential tasks a policy-maker must undertake during the policy-making process. The lead contact officer for the report is Val Birchall – Head of Arts at Birmingham City Council. This indicates a specific individual involved in formulation of the policy, as well as providing contact for further potential research.
Potential Further Academic Research
Though within this report I have analysed and touched upon aspects such as the language used, and the policy-making process there is certainly room for further – in depth – study. In fact, this report is merely a foundation for further research that I intend to carry out. Throughout the process of studying Big City Culture I have formulated several potential research questions – for further understanding of policymakers as well as targeting other areas of policy research.
Potential Research Questions
– How many organisations, or ‘experts,’ are involved in the policy-making process?
– Governmental Policy Making – is it possible to identify the cultural intermediaries and specific policy makers?
– Policy Language: Making sense of the lexis used within Policy – what does it reveal of the policy-making process?
– Local Policy-making: Are the methods used for policy-making reflected from a national level to local, regional policy- making?
– Cultural Policy: Birmingham City Council – who are the cultural intermediaries, how do they impact the policy-making process?
Methods of Research
There are numerous angles for further research; I feel that ‘Big City Culture’ provides an interesting source for policy analysis. The key intentions of this report are to identify the policy-makers involved in Big City Culture, another method that will allow for identification of specific policy makers would be to contact Birmingham City Council and ask them directly. Interviews with those at Birmingham City Council would prove insightful for understanding the process of policymaking, and its implementation.
– Birmingham City Council Cultural Services. http://birmingham.gov.uk/arts
– Birmingham’s Cultural Strategy. Birmingham Big City Culture. http://birminghamculture.org/birmingham-cultural-partnership/our-strategy
– Birmingham City Council. Democracy in Birmingham. http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/democracy
– Birmingham City Council / Democracy. Search Documents. http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/democracy/Pages/SearchDocuments.aspx?SearchText=big+city+culture&isFullTextSearch=False
– Birmingham City Council. (2010) Big City Culture UK City of Culture Public report. Birmingham.gov.uk/democracy, May 2010.
– Birmingham City Council, Information Briefing, Local Development Plan – Big City Plan PDF, Birmingham.gov.uk/democracy, April 2010.