As we describe in the ‘About ITEM’ section of our website, Work Package Two reviews policy documents and holds workshops and interviews with policy-makers and stakeholders in each of our case study cities in order to review how the different dimensions of justice are accounted for in the policies and decisions that govern the transition to electric mobility, why this is, and whether policy processes can be improved.
We use qualitative methods because this research question is all about answering how and why the transition to electric mobility is happening in certain ways, not just who is(n’t) using electric mobility and where electric mobility infrastructure and services can(‘t) be found. Which is not to say we are not asking questions about people and places, but these questions too are formulated as how and why.
For example: How are different people expected to use or respond to the transition to electric mobility? Why are some groups, but not others, involved or recognised in the policies and decisions that govern that transition? How are different places imagined when planning electric mobility interventions? Why are some places identified as needing more, less or different interventions?
Qualitative methods are well-placed to answer how and why questions rigorously, and help us find ways to make use of those answers.
For Bristol alone, we have iteratively read and coded 16 policy documents, from the city, combined authority and national levels. These have included transport and climate change strategies at urban and national scales, bids and business cases prepared for central government review, and central government guidance prepared to assist local authorities. Hundreds of pages resulted in thousands of references. Our coding worked both top down and bottom up.
We created 11 ‘parent’ codes from our analytical framework, covering five dimensions of justice (capabilities and epistemic justice formed separate parent codes) and six central aspects of policy and governance:
- sources of knowledge;
- policy interventions;
- their strategic programming;
- the problems (and opportunities) policies address;
- the people / subjects identified or implied; and
- the places / territories addressed or characterised.
Within these, a close reading of the texts led to child, grandchild and even great-grandchild codes that help us understand:
- how dimensions of justice manifest in policy, in concepts such as accessibility or affordability;
- why certain sources of knowledge or evidence are foregrounded, e.g. when it is politically expedient to show generalised public support or expert advice;
- why different policy interventions or strategic packages are targeted at certain places and people, e.g. because they are seen as needing more intervention; and
- how local residents or businesses are expected to respond, including as rational actors who will choose the most attractive and efficient mobility options provided.
Thus, qualitative analytical methods help us recognise patterns of meaning within the narratives these documents present about the transition to electric mobility, its role in wider policy debates around sustainable transport, climate change, and public funding. They also help us consider what is not said, especially in our hunt for indications of inclusivity in policy decisions and delivery.
These methods can also be used to analyse, quite literally, what is said, as we interview policy-makers and related stakeholders. We can ask them directly which and whether aspects of social justice are accounted for in their work. We can then use the same coding methods to see whether the answers to those how and why questions are the same, how the narratives compare, and why knowledge, approach, and perspectives vary.
In summary, the research in this work package aims not only to understand how and why in the past and present, but also how and why policy and governance may accelerate a more inclusive transition to electric mobility in the future. And we will continue to use qualitative methods to not only search for answers, but also apply them.