Public Policy and Administration (PPA) Specialist Group in China

John Connolly, Lecturer in Public Policy, University of the West of Scotland, UK

Sarah Cooper, Lecturer in Politics, University of Exeter, UK

Fabrizio De Francesco, Lecturer in Politics, University of Strathclyde, UK

We were each fortunate to be selected for the PSA ‘international’ bursaries awarded to the Public Policy and Administration (PPA) Specialist Group. The funding supported our attendance at the Social Innovation and Research Conference (SIRC) hosted by the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University, Shanghai in May 2015. The conference was an excellent opportunity for us present our recent work and to meet with researchers who are leading the way in innovation, public service improvement and management. We were struck, and actually rather comforted in many respects, by the extent to which academics from across the globe are grappling with similar challenges to ours, e.g. how best to co-produce public services with partners, ways of engaging citizens in public services, how to deploy innovative practices within a network environment (to name but a few). It was fascinating to learn, however, about how the political contexts at multiple levels of governance tend to set the narrative and paradigms upon which innovation occurs (and the opportunities for it). We also came away with lots of questions to reflect on. For example, what actually is ‘social innovation’? The conference presentations were accepted and delivered under this broad heading but the lack of a clear and agreed definition will keep the delegates thinking over the coming months. That being said, the conference served to highlight for us just how academic research in this area has practical implications for public managers who are never short of pressures to reform their services, to demonstrate the impact of what they do and to manage (and work within) multi-stakeholder contexts.

We felt an extra level of appreciation for the PSA funding as it was an opportunity to visit Shanghai; the economic capital of China and one of the world’s top political science departments (Fudan University is 19th in the QS global rankings). It was great that it was 25 degrees Celsius during our stay - it is always nice not to have to wear a jacket when walking between panels around the campus! We were ever so thankful to the student volunteers who acted as our guides. The students even provided the evening entertainment at the conference dinner by demonstrating their musical skills. The setting and food at the Hailong restaurant was second to none. A stimulating and fun time had by all.