My research centers on the politics of long-term governance, with particular attention to issues such as climate change adaptation and resilience. I rely on (and teach) qualitative methods, including case studies, process tracing, policy process frameworks, and concept development. See my pages on Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and Academia for up-to-date publications lists.
The Politics and Policy of Long-term Governance
The idea that crisis influences policy making is well accepted, however conflicting evidence exists on whether extreme events facilitate or hamper long-term policy goals such as climate change adaptation efforts. On one hand, extreme weather events can reveal vulnerabilities and drive consensus on problem definitions, raising the political will for change. On the other hand, the heightened sense of urgency during a crisis often biases action toward reducing immediate risks, potentially further embedding the conditions that created the vulnerability in the first place.
In Australia, at the height of an unprecedented drought in 2007, policymakers adopted national water reforms that incorporated long term strategies to adapt to climate change. Through in-depth analysis of this single case, this study unpacks the various ways extreme drought influenced the policy process. Key findings belie the notion that extreme weather functioned as a focusing event to raise attention in the problem stream, as it does with short-term problems like hurricanes and other sudden-onset natural disasters. Instead, developments in the politics stream drove the sense of urgency for tackling long-term problems. These findings are generalized to theory, suggesting a number of theoretical extensions and novel hypotheses for testing in future comparative policy studies.
This study is currently under development as a book manuscript. In addition, a paper on the concept of multiple partial couplings has been published in Policy Studies Journal (Dolan, 2021).
*Australian fieldwork and initial analysis was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1310954. All opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Community Resilience Platforms
With initial funding from the Center for Resilient and Sustainable Communities (C-RASC), I launched the RaSC Frameworks Study to analyze the proliferating landscape of platforms that guide communities in building resilience and sustainability. Examples include ISET’s Climate Resilience Framework, UN’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, IFRC’s Community Resilience Framework, and TNC’s Community Resilience Building Workshop. The initial goal is to understand the commonalities and unique features of various platforms to develop an approach for assessing new and updated platforms as they emerge over time. Study outcomes can inform C-RASC’s goal to develop the Collaborative Community Resilience Implementation Template, enabling transdisciplinary teams to draw lessons across a range of diverse community-driven case studies. The project database is a first step toward developing a knowledgebase that supports both scholarly research on resilience and sustainability practices, and communities seeking advice on frameworks suited to their specific goals and contexts.
Agency in the Policy Process
Over the past few decades, elites have operated in novel and insidious ways to rig governance systems to their benefit while ushering in surging inequality and undermining even the most established democracies. In a study with Janine R. Wedel and Nazia Hussain, we identify the activity of political rigging as a systemic, structural problem that has yet to be fully conceptualized. Our initial examination, undertaken as part of Oxfam’s work on economic inequality and political capture, provides a roadmap for practitioners, journalists, and scholars to understand how political rigging occurs, and why it differs from prior ways that influence has been deployed and exploited. Related analysis has been presented at the 2018 International Public Policy Association workshops on agency in the policy process in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA). Offshoots of these ideas are being pursued separately in collaboration with European researchers and the topic of a panel organized for IPPA in Montreal, Canada (2019), and in a paper on policy entrepreneurship accepted for an IPPA panel in Quito Equador (2020), cancelled due to COVID.