Document Type : Commentary
Division of History, Heritage, and Politics, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
Squires et al note that too many people use terms like ‘context’ imprecisely. The result (to avoid) is a catch-all term that lacks explanatory value and hinders the efforts of policy designers. Their list of 66 factors is a useful exercise to unpack what people mean when describing context. However, some problems will arise when the authors seek to move from research to practice. First, the list is too long to serve its purpose. Second, in many cases, it categorises rather than operationalises key terms. The result is the replacement of one vague term with a collection of others. Third, many categories describe what policy designers might need, rather than what they can reasonably expect to happen. In that context, wider studies of implementation and complex systems provide cautionary tales in which the outcomes of research become overwhelming rather than practical.