Politics and my research

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(T847, block 1, activity 4 – 7)

Bamberger et al. (2006) offers a classification of four types of politics that operate in organisations and wider society.

Individual politics

My personal politics (i.e. values and beliefs) may influence – or may have already influenced – my thinking on:

  • ideas I have for research projects
  • how I may want to carry out my research.

I can see a strong link between my values of health as a human right and the related value of social justice in my driver to do this research.  My academic studies have helped me to understand that our currently dominant ways of thinking and acting in terms of leadership/governance close down, rather than open up, possibilities for everyone to enjoy good health and positive wellbeing.  I am pleased that the new WHO paper on Governance for Health seems to reinforce this view and help me justify it to stakeholders.

In health and social care, there is a strong ethos of ‘nothing about me, without me’ and this value is influencing the way I want to carry out my research with stakeholders (colleagues working in and with partnerships).  I see it as the opportunity for generating collaborative approaches for change – as an ‘intervention’ as much as a data gathering exercise.  This seems similiar to action research approaches.

Professional politics

One of the key aspects of a partnership environment is the multitude of different professional groups who have different paradigms underpinning their discipline.  For example, medicine has a strong positivist underpinning whereas social work is more based on social theory.

These differences may make my research completely acceptable to some key stakeholders, but others may wish to judge it within the parameters of other paradigms…potentially negating its value in the process.

Stakeholder politics

In some ways, stakeholder politics is similiar to professional politics in a partnership setting.  I can segment my stakeholders in many ways – NHS, local authority, voluntary and community sector OR ‘senior’ vs more junior, for example and each one makes me think slightly differently about the way politics will be played out.  I’ve noticed the course explores stakeholder issues in more details later on.  I suppose one of the key aspects I am interested in in my research is whether different stakeholder groups have different perspectives on how partnership working should happen – the more ‘senior’ people are the more likely their views will predominate.

Societal politics

This is a big one for me – I am an officer in a Local Authority.  Our local elected members (especially the Leader) are expected to drive the wellbeing and health agenda and a key part of my role is creating the context where they can do so. This means our local politicians are a key stakeholder.  This administration came into power last May and are very keen to change the way the council works – including relationships with stakeholders.  This may mean my research topic is of interest to them.

Our current adminstration is Labour – whilst the national government is coalition of Conservative/Lib Dems.  There is therefore politics being played out between local and national too.


Bamberger, M., Rugh, J. and Mabry, L. (2006) Real World Evaluation: Working Under Budget, Time, Data and Political Constraints, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.  Cited in T847 course materials

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