Social Policy Digital Festival – 13-17 July 2020

rain boots on a fence
image by Pixabay

Following the sad cancellation of our annual conference due to COVID-19, the SPA held a very successful Social Policy Digital Festival Week in July 2020.

We explored our Conference Theme: ‘Beyond the echo-chamber: a vision for social policy’ through a series of well-attended online events. These events allowed us to highlight the value of policy and practice, of integrating social policy domains both nationally and internationally, and reflecting on the interdependent nature of human existence and the importance of interdisciplinarity in light of current challenges.

Videos of most events will be made available to SPA members via the SPA Online platform.

Date and TimeActivity
Monday 13th July
Postgraduate Event
Launch of the Policy Press photo competition
Tuesday 14th July

Postgraduate Event

Wednesday 15th July
10.30-12.00Welcome and ‘Spongers’

10.30: Introduction from Karen Rowlingson, Chair of the SPA

10.45: Address from Social Policy Association President,  Baroness Ruth Lister of Burtersett

11.00: Looking at ‘Spongers’ with Julian Le Grand

11.30: Digital online discussion with Julian Le Grand chaired by Vikki McCall.
14.00-15.0014.00: Looking ‘beyond the echo chamber’ with Alison Garnham (Child Poverty Action Group) chaired by Karen Rowlingson.
Thursday 16th July
11.00-12.00The Missing Dimension: where is ‘race’ in social policy teaching and learning?

11.00: Panel discussion with Steve Iafrati, Gary Craig, Nasar Meer and Ruby Chau about the SPA’s work on supporting teaching and research in social policy.

11.30: Online discussion with the panel, chaired by Steve Iafrati.
15.30-16.30SPA Annual General Meeting
SPA Members only
16.30-17.30Social Policy Pub Quiz!
To follow the AGM.
Friday 17th July
09.00-10.00 Policy Press Book Launch

The Research in Comparative and Global Social Policy series is published in association with the SPA. This event includes an introduction to the series from the editors, a short talk from Christopher Deeming about the most recent book in the series (Minimum Income Standards and Reference Budgets), followed by a brief reflection on researching the field from Jonathan Bradshaw and a Q&A to finish.
11.00-12.30Closing Keynote

11.00: lecture from Gurminder Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies, University of Sussex.

11.45: online discussion chaired by Anya Ahmed.

Details of the Programme

15th July – “Spongers” with Julian Le Grand

It’s not widely known that Nicholas Parsons, the host of Radio 4’s Just a Minute, who sadly died a few months ago, was an expert on social policy.   Here is an example of his work from the 1980s, where he hosts a mock panel show, demonstrating who gets what from the welfare state. It stars the middle class Osbornes, the working class Ackroyds, Pandora (who opens the box) and, of course, Nicholas himself. There are also occasional guest appearances by Julian Le Grand, LSE Professor of Social Policy, who will be introducing the show and hosting a discussion on its relevance today.

15th July -Looking ‘beyond the echo chamber’

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Alison Garnham has been Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) since September 2010. Prior to this she was the CEO of Daycare Trust and was previously, for nine years, the Director of Policy at One Parent Families (now Gingerbread). In her early career, she worked for nearly ten years as a welfare rights adviser in Citizens Advice Bureaux and for women’s organisations and local voluntary sector organisations before, in 1989, joining CPAG (for the first time) where she co-authored a number of publications about the Child Support Act. She has subsequently written about childcare, lone parenthood and child poverty. Before joining One Parent Families she was Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University) where she has also been an Honorary Research Fellow. She was for nine years a member of the Social Security Advisory Committee. She is a school parent governor at her son’s school.

16th July – BAME Panel Discussion

The Missing Dimension Where is ‘race’ in social policy teaching and learning?

Online streaming of panel discussion with Steve Iafrati, Gary Craig, Nasar Meer and Ruby Chau about the SPA work on supporting BAME teaching and research in social policy. You can access the full report and the SPA’s Action Plan online.

17th July – Policy Press: Minimum Income Standards and Reference Budgets Book Launch

Join Policy Press as they launch the latest book in the Research in Comparative and Global Social Policy series: Minimum Income Standards and Reference Budgets edited by Christopher Deeming.

The COVID-19 pandemic is testing health and social protection systems around the globe. As a result, research into minimum income standards and reference budgets has become even more crucial. In this illuminating new collection leading academics compare findings from around the world and review learnings to date and future prospects for research.

Join Christopher Deeming, Jonathan Bradshaw and the series editors as they introduce their new edited collection. The session will include:

  • Research in Comparative and Global Social Policy series introduction
  • Minimum Income Standards and Reference Budget book launch (Christopher Deeming)
  • Researching the field: Reflections (Jonathan Bradshaw)
  • Minimum Income Standards and Reference Budget Q&A session

Send you questions for the Q&A in advance to

17th July  – Final Plenary

Gurminder Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies, University of Sussex

Gurminder K Bhambra is Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies in the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex.

Previously, she was Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and also Guest Professor of Sociology and History at the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, Linnaeus University, Sweden (2016-18). In March 2017, she was Visiting Professor at EHESS, Paris; for the academic year 2014-15, she was Visiting Fellow in the Department of Sociology, Princeton University and Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She has also held a Visiting Position at the Department of Sociology, University of Brasilia, Brazil and is affiliated with REMESO, Linköping University, Sweden.

Her first monograph, Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination (Palgrave, 2007), won the 2008 Philip Abrams Memorial Prize for best first book in sociology. It addressed how, within sociological understandings of modernity, the experiences and claims of non-European ‘others’ have been rendered invisible to the standard narratives and analytical frameworks of sociology. In challenging the dominant, Eurocentred accounts of the emergence and development of modernity, she has put forward an argument for the recognition of ‘connected histories’ in the reconstruction of historical sociology at a global level. This argument for a global historical sociology can be found in her second book, Connected Sociologies (Bloomsbury, 2014), which is open access and free to read at this link.

She has co-edited five collections, Silencing Human Rights (with Robbie Shilliam, Palgrave, 2009); 1968 in Retrospect (with Ipek Demir, Palgrave, 2009); African Athena (with Daniel Orrells and Tessa Roynon, OUP, 2011), and European Cosmopolitanisms (with John Narayan, Routledge, 2017), and Decolonising the University (with Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nisancioglu, Pluto Press, 2018). She has also organised special issues of the following journals: Sociology (Global Futures and Epistemologies of the South: New Challenges for Sociology, with Prof Boaventura de Sousa Santos) Current Sociology (on Knowledge Production in Global Context: Power and Coloniality); Journal of Historical Sociology (on Contesting Imperial Epistemologies, and on Translation and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity); Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies (on Edward Said).

While her research interests are primarily in the area of postcolonial and global historical sociology, she is also interested in the intersection of the social sciences more generally with recent work in postcolonial and decolonial studies. Her current project is on epistemological justice and reparations.

She is Series Editor of the Theory for a Global Age series, set up by Bloomsbury Academic and now published by Manchester University Press and, in 2015, she set up the Global Social Theory website to support students and academics interested in social theory in global perspective. She is also co-editor of the online magazine, Discover Society and Trustee at the Sociological Review Foundation.