Diagnosing and assessing public policies: tips from the institutional analysis and development framework

Heikkila_AnderssonTanya Heikkila and
Krister Andersson

This blog is based on our recent article on policy design and the added value of the institutional analysis and development (IAD) framework in the 2018 special issue on Practical Lessons from Policy Theories.

Policy design is hard work. Policymakers often struggle to reach agreement on whether or how to create or adapt policies in response to issues that involve complex or multi-faceted problems (or solutions), or where deep-seated value disagreements over problems or solutions exist.  This raises the question: How can policymakers or analysts navigate and design effective policies around complex collective problems?  Continue reading

Using information processing theory to build a smarter government

Koski_WorkmanChris Koski and
Samuel Workman

Many people assume that the main problem faced by governments is an information deficit. However, the opposite is true. A surfeit of information exists and institutions have a hard time managing it.  At the same time, all the information that exists in defining problems may be insufficient. Institutions need to develop a capacity to seek out better quality information too.

In our recent research article in the special issue Practical Lessons from Policy Theories, we analyse studies of national and subnational information processing and policy change to identify potential bottlenecks of information and patterns of policy feedback, identifying lessons from this literature.  Continue reading

Narratives as tools for influencing policy change

Crow_JonesDeserai Crow and Michael Jones

Imagine. You are an ecologist. You recently discovered that a chemical that is discharged from a local manufacturing plant is threatening a bird that locals love to watch every spring. Now, imagine that you desperately want your research to be relevant and make a difference to help save these birds. All of your training gives you depth of expertise that few others possess. Your training also gives you the ability to communicate and navigate things such as probabilities, uncertainty, and p-values with ease.

But as NPR’s Robert Krulwich argues, focusing on this very specialized training when you communicate policy problems could lead you in the wrong direction. While being true to the science and best practices of your training, one must also be able to tell a compelling story.  Perhaps combine your scientific findings with the story about the little old ladies who feed the birds in their backyards on spring mornings, emphasizing the beauty and majesty of these avian creatures, their role in the community, and how the toxic chemicals are not just a threat to the birds, but are also a threat to the community’s understanding of itself and its sense of place.  The latest social science is showing that if you tell a good story, your policy communications are likely to be more effective.

This blog is based on our recent article on narrative as a tool for influencing policy change in the 2018 special issue on Practical Lessons from Policy Theories.  Continue reading

Strategies for collaborating in fragmented governments

Swann_KimWilliam L. Swann and Seo Young Kim

Whether protecting a watershed, recovering from a natural disaster, or facilitating international trade, governments often need to collaborate to achieve policy goals. But resolving complex problems across fragmented jurisdictional landscapes involves overcoming significant collective action barriers.

Governments, like individuals, have an incentive to free ride on collective efforts and obtain benefits without contributing to the costs of public goods. For example, all governments in a region benefit from air pollution mitigation, but each government has an incentive to enjoy cleaner air without making the sacrifices to produce it. Continue reading

What are advocacy coalitions and why do they matter?

Weible_IngoldChristopher M. Weible and Karin Ingold

There are many ways that people relate to their government.  People may vote for their formal representatives through elections.  Through referendums and initiatives, people can vote directly to shape public policy.  More indirect ways include through informal representation via political parties or interest groups and associations.

This blog addresses another extremely important way to relate government via “advocacy coalitions.”Advocacy coalitions are alliances of people around a shared policy goal. People associated with the same advocacy coalition have similar ideologies and worldviews and wish to change a given policy (concerning health, environmental, or many other issues) in the same direction. Continue reading

The Lessons of Policy Learning

Dunlop.RadaelliClaire A. Dunlop and Claudio M. Radaelli

The literature on policy learning has generated a huge amount of heat and some light producing policy learning taxonomies, concepts and methods. But yet the ambition to show what learning can offer policy-makers, citizens and societies has remained peripheral. To help things along, we distil the major lessons from the policy learning literature.  Continue reading

Three habits of successful policy entrepreneurs

Paul Cairney Paul Cairney

The ‘multiple streams approach’ (MSA) is one of policy scholarship’s biggest successes. Kingdon’s original is one the highest cited books in policy studies, and there is a thriving programme of empirical application and theoretical refinement.

Yet, I argue that its success is built on shaky foundations because its alleged strength – its flexible metaphor of streams and windows of opportunity – is actually its weakness. Most scholars describe MSA superficially, fail to articulate the meaning of its metaphor, do not engage with state of the art developments, and struggle to apply its concepts systematically to empirical research. These limitations create an acute scientific problem: most scholars apply MSA without connecting it to a coherent research agenda.

In my recent article in Policy & Politics, I seek to solve this problem in three ways. Continue reading

Introduction to the 2018 special issue on Practical Lessons from Policy Theories

WeibleCairneyChristopher M. Weible and Paul Cairney

In this Special Issue of Policy & Politics, we issue a challenge to policy theory scholars to change the way they produce and communicate research: translate your findings to a wider audience to garner feedback on gauge their clarity and quality.

Policy theories have generated widespread knowledge of the policy process, but the field is vast and uncoordinated, and too many scholars write and speak with so much jargon that ideas become obfuscated, hardly understandable to other scholars, and beyond the interests of people outside of academia. As scholars, we often assume, rather than demonstrate, that our ideas convincingly make sense to people beyond our narrow academic circles and that policy process research contains insights that add cumulative and comparable knowledge to practice and the field.  Continue reading

Introducing our 2018 Policy & Politics special issue on Practical Lessons from Policy Theories

Christopher M. Weible and Paul Cairney

Introducing our 2018 Policy & Politics special issue on Practical Lessons from Policy Theories, published in April now available online and in print. (Free to access online until 31 May)

Professors Christopher. M. Weible from the University of Colorado, Denver and Paul Cairney from the University of Stirling talk in the video below about their motivation for producing a special issue on drawing practical lessons from policy theories, and why their subject is so important.  Continue reading