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School of Environment, Education and Development

Governance, policy and practice

SEED’s strong focus on making a difference with its research is clearly reflected in this new core research theme.

The theme of Governance, Policy and Practice is both discrete and cross-cutting in relation to the three others, and is concerned with investigating, developing and promoting new and effective ways of dealing with complex global problems that habitually occur at multiple scales.

The challenge of governance constitutes a rich area for SEED researchers, both at the level of theoretical reflection – including critical work in Geography and GDI on ‘governance’ under neoliberalism – and through more applied forms of research. Indeed, financial austerity and deepening privatisation is forcing a major rethink of how national and local governments, and previously ‘public’ organisations, function in the UK and elsewhere in the global North. In this context, SEED research is exploring new forms of networked governance in urban areas, through both SPAL and CURE.

Policy and the global South

Shipyard, Cape Town, South Africa

The biggest challenge for achieving social justice remains that of developing the institutions required to deliver development for and in poor countries. At the national level, this challenge is being explored by the Effective States and Inclusive Development Centre (ESID) through its partnerships with the Centre for International Development at Harvard, alongside partners across Africa and South Asia.

The critical role of organisations – public, private and civic – in promoting development forms the focus of SEED’s Centre for Organisations in Development (COD), and forms the basis for ongoing work within the Global Development Institute around improving NGO practice and accountability, as well as upcoming research on the role and scope of the rising powers.

Education, policy and practice

The links between governance, policy and practice form a key locus for research undertaken within the Manchester Institute of Education. Firstly, work on Critical Education Policy (CEP) focuses on mapping and critically engaging with the design and experience of policy interventions in the modernisation of schools and schooling. The ongoing focus of this work within SEED is around educational improvement and effectiveness, and how policymakers, practitioners, and researchers inter-relate to examine issues of teaching and learning, and the role of policy and leadership within this process.

Secondly, the Critical Pedagogies programme focuses on curriculum and pedagogy across the field of education from an analytical perspective. Researchers within this programme have an active interest in classroom practice, inquiry based learning and lesson study, with significant strengths in mathematics education.

Significantly, SEED boasts a spin-off company that emerged out of ESRC funded research. Ketso is a social business, selling and renting a hands-on kit for creative engagement that provides table-top tools to record and display ideas, enhancing group productivity and creativity. It has been taken up by over 50% of UK universities, is used in 27 countries and boasts over 300 unique customers. Practitioners recognise that its use in data gathering enhances the impact of research, engagement and change management.

Spatial planning and territorial governance

Research in this area encompasses a raft of policy-related work, all linked to critiques around the search for territorially-based policy and institutional ‘fixes’ to different planning problems, at a variety of spatial scales. The research is led by the Spatial Policy and Analysis Laboratory (SPAL), and spans the disciplines of Geography and Planning. Three specific themes are underscored:

The evaluation of urban regeneration initiatives

Including major government-commissioned evaluations of flagship regeneration programmes, such as the national evaluation of the New Deal for Communities initiative and the evaluation of the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal.

The development of quantitative indicators to measure the changing nature of urban areas

This has involved research on how cities and their neighbourhoods work and change over time, including work on deprivation indices and urban regeneration, that considers how best to measure this change. A more recent area of interest has emerged as part of this sub-theme, and centres on the application of GIS techniques to urban planning and policy problems at the neighbourhood scale.

Territorial governance and the role of the spatial planning system

This work is strongly interdisciplinary in nature, with research focusing on the potentials and problems associated with the creation of new territories of governance, policy approaches and institutional structures at the city-region scale. Research has addressed recent changes to the land-use planning system in Britain, including: Spatial Plans in Practice (for DCLG); stakeholder and community involvement in regional planning (for the Town and Country Planning Association); developing the evidence base on the of the need for a national spatial planning framework (for the Royal Town Planning Institute); developing a monitoring system for complex spatial strategies (for DCLG); and in-depth research on ethnicity, race and planning.

Further information

Visit the Centre websites for full details of their ongoing research: