Alternative Imaginings of Regulation: An Experiment in Co‐production

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/jols.12084
Date01 March 2018
Author ,Morag McDermont
Publication Date01 March 2018
JOURNAL OF LAW AND SOCIETY
VOLUME 45, NUMBER 1, MARCH 2018
ISSN: 0263-323X, pp. 156±75
Alternative Imaginings of Regulation:
An Experiment in Co-production
Morag McDermont* with the
Productive Margins Collective
Despite decades of regulatory scholarship that took responsive regula-
tion and regulatory space as starting points, much regulatory practice
still has little focus on the experiences of those at the `sharp end' of
regulation. This article develops some of the insights from a five-year
research programme that aimed to explore what regulatory systems
might look like if they took seriously the idea of `regulating for
engagement', working with community organizations to understand
how regulation is experienced `at the margins'. We argue that the
methodology of co-production expands our ways of knowing by
allowing in expertise-by-experience to the deliberative processes of
regulation; the creative processes that artists bring in can produce
artefacts that have an important role in developing `really responsive
regulation'.
INTRODUCTION
I have children. I am worried about my children's life. I want them to be
healthy, have a good life, good community. I don't like them eating bad food. I
want my children to have healthy food. (Fathia)
Why do children love takeaways so much? What do they put in it? They put
magic in it! (Sucdi)
1
These are voices of two of the participants in a project that was part of a
large co-produced programme of research between seven communi ty
organizations in Bristol and south Wales, and academics at the Universities
156
*University of Bristol Law School, Office 1.03, 8±10 Berkeley Square,
Bristol BS8 1HH, England
morag.mcdermont@bristol.ac.uk
1 Somali Kitchen, `They put magic in it!: Working together for a healthier food culture
in Easton', at .
ß2018 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2018 Cardiff University Law School
of Bristol and Cardiff. The research question for this particular project, `Who
decides what's in my fridge?' arose from discussions involving multiple
forms of expertise: of those living in the inner city where fast-food
takeaways occupy every second shop on the high street; residents of an outer
estate where access to cheap, healthy food means a long and costly bus ride;
community organizations working in communities considered to be at the
margins of society; and academics studying food production and regulation.
The voices illustrate participants' frustration at their inability to influence, let
alone regulate, what their children eat because their concerns for well-being
cannot compete with the `magic' ingredient in (unhealthy) takeaway food.
Despite decades of regulatory scholarship that took responsive regulation
and regulatory space as starting points, much regulatory practice still has
little focus on the experiences of those at the `sharp end' of regulation.
`Productive Margins: regulating for engagement' was a five-year research
programme that aimed to explore what regulatory systems might look like if
they took seriously the idea of `regulating for engagement'. The programme
sought to investigate: `How can we design regulatory regimes that begin
from the capabilities of communities excluded from the mainstream, finding
ways of powerfully supporting the knowledge, passions and creativity of
citizens?'
2
It was in part an experiment in thinking beyond capitalism to
community economies as an `ethical and political space of becoming'.
3
This,
we argue, requires a rethinking of regulation, towards regulatory systems
that allow deliberation by a diverse range of actors
4
± not just regulators and
relatively powerful organizations but also those in communities who
experience the effects of regulation in their daily lives.
The programme too was an attempt to enact `new experiments in living':
5
to do research differently through co-producing an entire research pro-
gramme between community organizations who worked with communities
`at the margins' and a multi-disciplinary group of academics along with
artist practitioners. The article takes the co-produced research programme as
an exemplar of what `regulating for engagement' might look like or attempt
to be, and the difficulties and limitations encountered in trying to make this
happen. We believe that the insights we have gained from this experiment
can be carried through to other regulatory regimes. For, in attempting to
change regulatory practices to enable engagement by communities at the
margins, regulatory organizations need to change their `point of view': they
need to be able to see the regulatory regimes enacted from a point of view
that can capture and dialogue wit h the experiences of citizens and
communities who are experiencing `being regulated'.
157
2
M. McDermont et al., `Case for Support' (2012), at .
3 J.K. Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (2006, 2nd edn.).
4 Compare J. Black, `Proceduralizing Regulation: Part I' (2000) 20 Oxford J. of Legal
Studies 597; `Part II' (2001) 21 Oxford J. of Legal Studies 21.
5 Gibson-Graham, op. cit., n. 3.
ß2018 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2018 Cardiff University Law School

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