Doing emotion, doing policy: the emotional role of 'grassroots' community activists in poverty policy-making

Document type
Working Paper
Anderson, Rosie
Third Sector Research Centre
Date of publication
1 May 2013
Working paper; 96
Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion, Community Development and Regeneration, Social Policy
Social welfare
Material type

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This paper examines different understandings of the emotional role played by activist or ‘grass-roots’ participants for those involved in policy-making. Drawing on findings from an ethnographic study of an interrelated cluster of anti-poverty policy-making forums in Scotland it considers both what informants understand by ‘emotion’ and its role in policy-making from the point of view of informants themselves. In particular it focuses on discussions and observations from the inception phase of this research project in which the nature of emotion was considered and some of the explicit and tacit ‘rules’ about who may be ‘emotional’, when they may do that and how emotion is to be expressed socially. This paper looks at two key aspects of informants’ practice; the special expectations policy forum participants have of activists and community organisation representatives around behaviour and language associated with ‘the emotional’; and participants’ understandings of the relationship between emotion, authenticity and legitimate decision-making when making policy. It concludes by considering how this examination of grassroots emotionality could assist in conceptualising emotional practice and power in policy-making and suggesting some key challenges for both researchers and practitioners

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