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Week 6.2 Policy Networks and Change – Agenda Setting, Punctuated Equilibrium and Advocacy Coalitions.

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Presentation on theme: "Week 6.2 Policy Networks and Change – Agenda Setting, Punctuated Equilibrium and Advocacy Coalitions."— Presentation transcript:

1 Week 6.2 Policy Networks and Change – Agenda Setting, Punctuated Equilibrium and Advocacy Coalitions.

2 Stability Literature on policy monopolies stresses stability of group/ government relations Suggests policy continuity and incrementalism Stability explained by agenda setting – Defining policy problems and their solutions Influencing the extent to which issues are discussed

3 Change The same agenda-setting literature can also help explain change There is competition to define issues, and influence the extent of discussion Successful redefinitions of policy may bring in previously excluded participants, shift political alignments and punctuate previously stable policy environments

4 But What is Agenda Setting? Definition elusive, but 3 statements are relevant: There is an almost unlimited amount of policy problems that could be given the most attention (reaching the top of the political agenda ) by the government, media or public Very few subjects will find their way onto the political agenda, while most others will not; Certain policy solutions will be considered while others are not.

5 Agenda-setting literature … … seeks to explain this limited success for some issues and solutions Stress on competition to define issues Resources of participants Socio-economic conditions (link)link Context of policy, media and public preferences Links to power and decision-making clear

6 What is an Agenda? Dearing and Rogers (1996: 1) broader conception: The agenda setting process is an ongoing competition among issue proponents to gain the attention of media professionals, the public, and policy elites.

7 Lecture focus on Policy Agenda Kingdons (1984: 3) definition: The list of subjects or problems to which government officials, and people outside of government closely associated with those officials, are paying some serious attention at any given time … the agenda setting process narrows [a] set of conceivable subjects to the set that actually becomes the focus of attention.

8 Importance of Problem Definition Kingdon (1984: 103-4): There is a difference between a condition and a problem … conditions become defined as problems when we come to believe that we should do something about them.. the problem doesnt have to get any worse or better. Jones (1994: 5): decision-makers value or weight preferences differently depending on the context in which they are evoked

9 Problem definition is key to decision making Policy issues are inherently multi- dimensional There is no end to possible ways of looking at a problem, but only so much time and energy to devote to issues. So, highly complex issues are simplified, with very few aspects of a complex policy problem focussed on at any one time at the expense of all the rest.

10 Problem definition depends on : Framing/ Categorisation – how issues are portrayed. Technical to limit debate, wider social themes to heighten participation. Needle exchanges, fuel crisis, smoking. The appearance of crisis – natural disaster or less obvious (crisis in the NHS) Measurement – involves choices. Note measurements of poverty – absolute or relative. Initial AIDS diagnoses. Exaggerated effects – either of marginal change (unemployment, interest rates, house prices) or predictions (AIDS, BSE, bird flu) ……

11 Values – e.g. rights v privilege Links to Rhetorical Values – fairness, equality, patriotism, inclusiveness etc. Causality and the availability of a solution – a problem only a problem if something can be done about it. Poverty policy followed links to structural factors and the ID of solutions. Challenging causality may mean challenging policy – e.g. HIV/ AIDS in South Africa.

12 Comparisons/ policy learning - policy innovation in one country makes the policy seem more achievable. Expansion from self interest to general problem (e.g. business rates and economy) Symbols/ Positive and Negative Associations – e.g. AIDS and children/ haemophiliacs; Lawrence, Climbie. The Venue or level of government - e.g. harm reduction The target audience – who is affected? E.g. Housing market v homelessness

13 Why do some issues not make it? Problem Definition Crowded Out Problem not recognised (e.g. environment pre-1960s) Deemed not to be a legitimate state concern Non-decision-making

14 What is a Policy Network/ Community/ Monopoly? Debate over meaning of network for another time Only relevance is that policy community now regarded as particular kind of network Policy community approach as alternative to focus on Parliament/ legislative process The basic arguments are:

15 Policy Communities Much/ most public policy processed by specialist communities Relatively invisible to wider actors Policy technical with few interested Community set-up in response to scope of government Complex policy broken down into manageable technical issues Logic to devolving decisions to civil service and them consulting with certain affected interests ….

16 Organisations trade information/ advice for access and influence Type of community varies according to resources of groups and attitude of government When communities are stable they have: small numbers of participants coalitions between the participants with little scope for conflict bargaining on the details based on general agreement over problem definition, with little room for dissenting perspectives low levels of external attention

17 Some accounts stress the gaining of personal trust, through the awareness of, following, and reproduction of rules of the game … … immersion within a common culture in which there exists a great deal of agreement on the nature and solutions to policy problems.

18 How are communities insulated? Policy framed in such a way and broken down to such a level (sub-sectoral) that few have the interest or knowledge or time to engage Think seed potatoes, milk additives, detailed clinical procedures Potential for sectoral intervention but the day-to- day decisions taken in relative obscurity incentive for those actors involved in routine but important decisions to protect their privileged position.. even if they are unhappy with policy outcomes at particular points

19 Links to power and agenda-setting 1.Exercising power by limiting the participants 2.Exercising power by limiting the agenda or the extent of debate around policy issues. 3.Exercising power by framing or defining problems in a particular way. This is second-face power rather than direct conflict with winners and losers …

20 Relevance to Schattschneider: All forms of political organization have a bias in favor of the exploitation of some kinds of conflict and the suppression of others because organization is the mobilization of bias. Some issues are organized into politics while others are organized out.

21 But how pervasive are policy communities? Subject to debate Marsh and Rhodes see it as one end of continuum Issue networks at the other end Difficult to limit: the number of participants, the range of issues under discussion and the ways to define and deal with policy problems (see next slide)


23 How do we explain this variation? Punctuated Equilibrium. Baumgartner and Jones (1993): The forces that create stability during some periods are the same that combine during critical periods to force dramatic and long-lasting changes during other periods.

24 Conditions necessary to develop or challenge policy monopolies Attempt to subvert open discussion Not about a fight, more about preventing others turning out for a fight or knowing there is one to be had Attempt to make sure institutional arrangements work on the basis of a problem defined in a certain way Use of new ideas or evidence to challenge these strategies …

25 Baumgartner argument Problem definition - policy issues are inherently multi-dimensional. Competition to Define Problems – these ways to look at problems may not be contradictory but there may be choice of focus Public Policy Consequences (which are difficult to change – remember incrementalism)

26 Attention shift Attention can shift dramatically as new dimensions gain prominence and others are ignored This is Surprisingly common over the long run Successfully reframing the issue means an issue shifts from communities of professionals who know all the arguments to higher levels of public, media, and governmental awareness Involvement of the previously uninvolved

27 Venue Shift Attention shift suggests that the successful redefinition of a problem accompanied by an influx of new interested actors leads to the realignment of those actors and institutions. This may involve pursuing issues in other venues if one is relatively closed – e.g. an EU or devolved strategy to counter UK dominance

28 Examples Pesticides – shift from scientific progress/ ending world hunger to e.g. toxic effects on environment Nuclear power – from scientific advance/ solving energy crisis and dependence on oil to environment and financial costs of disposal Smoking – from Marlboro Man and value as industry to cancer and passive smoking

29 Attention shift and policy change Attention shift highlights new policy problems which require solutions Solutions already exist – they just need to be adapted to the problems as framed Policy change if the conditions are right …

30 Policy windows (Kingdon) The policy window is an opportunity for advocates of proposals to push their pet solutions, or to push attention to their special problems.. advocates lie in wait in and around government with their solutions at hand, waiting for problems to float by to which they can attach their solutions ….

31 Separate streams come together at critical times. A problem is recognized, a solution is developed and available in the policy community, a political change makes it the right time for policy change, and potential constraints are not severe … these policy windows, the opportunities for action on given initiatives, present themselves and stay open for only short periods

32 Policy windows Importance of reframing problems and adapting solutions at critical junctures: Mass public transport (congestion 1950s, pollution 1960s, oil shortage 1970s) Harm reduction existed long before HIV Private health care UK (Rolling back the state/ Thatcher; reducing waiting lists and gaining value for public money/ Blair) Public health and 9/11 (bioterrorism) Piggybacking onto bigger issues – e.g. diabetes and needle exchanges

33 The Advocacy Coalition Framework Similar link between networks and change Based on US but applicable to EU? Starting point is division of policy into subsystems with 1-4 competing advocacy coalitions and a policy broker. But: Sectoral rather than subsectoral ACs contain more actors from wider process – e.g. researchers and journalists Also includes actors from multiple levels of government……

34 … because of link to implementation research and the tracking of policy over a full cycle; a decade or more Emphasis on belief systems as glue that binds participants within ACs Range from core beliefs (nature of man, priorities of values – e.g. freedom v security), policy core (proper scope of government, coercion v persuasion) to secondary aspects (e.g. best way to deliver)

35 Core beliefs impervious to change Akin to religious conversion Policy beliefs may change after shocks to the system - changes in socio-economic conditions, public opinion and the effects of policies external to the subsystem Secondary aspects change following policy-learning – e.g. environmental ACs (from command-and-control to economic incentives)

36 ACF model of stability and change Stability: Parameters of policy – constitution, social structures/ values Core values of actors Dominance of one AC?

37 Change inspired by external events: new resources to challenge AC dominance and/ or assimilation of new evidence But note treatment of evidence Core beliefs unaltered Evidence subject to interpretation/ ranking using those values

38 Speculative example of smoking/ Ireland: Evidence for pro-tobacco AC = more smoking at home next to children, more domestic fires, drop in pub trade Evidence for anti-smoking AC = numbers quitting, successful implementation Pro-tobacco questions research on implementation Anti-smoking suggests less smoking at home after made aware of passive effects

39 Evidence feeds and informed by broader belief system e.g. that people should be free to smoke as long as smoking is legal/ that the state should not be involved at this level of individual behaviour that smoking is a public health disaster/ that the limits to types of liberty are justified by wider notions of liberty based on protection from harm.

40 ACF final points Surface level jostling over policy positions and delivery underpinned by core beliefs Change is apparent even if one AC dominates (policy learning) Change through reacting to external events Dominance unlikely given importance of external events? E.g. oil crisis, new President/ government

41 Issues with literature The Applicability of US Literature ? More closed system in W European states, more scope for smaller insulated communities? Europeanisation/ MLG makes these models more applicable?

42 The Role of External Factors Technological change which affects the range of policy choices, economic effects, demographic change, oil crises, etc. but also changes in public opinion or governmental turnover. Primacy over process? E.g. energy policy/ natural resources; pensions policy/ demographics; smoking/ public opinion; Thatcher/ Reagan elections the biggest effect on 1980s policy …

43 Emphasis on mediation of external factors They constrain but leave room for discretion Agenda-setting suggest that the problems themselves are subject to interpretation – oil crisis, pensions time bomb, public health disaster, etc ACF - external change explains shifts within subsystems Helps explain why policy windows open briefly – e.g. Medicare and brief Democrat dominance before Johnson/ Vietnam; energy crisis and transport solutions B&J – external factors such as shifting public attention/ opinion can be used as resources

44 Bigger picture of rationality Punctuated equilibrium suggests that long periods of stability in policy are punctuated by the rapid shifts of attention and therefore resource allocation Therefore incrementalism does not fit as a universal explanation for the policy process. But does this focussed attention mean most other areas unaltered?

45 Does Attention Necessarily Affect Policy? Baumgartner and Jones - peak periods of organisation change generally coincided with Gallup Poll data showing public concern with the same problems Soroka/ Lim – responsiveness of budgets varies by country. UK less responsive than US. Partly explained by definition of problem – a question of expenditure in the US but efficiency in t he UK? Kingdon - public attention is more influential to prompt action than to specify what that action should be Effect of public attention – Do something Difference between public attention and public opinion Hogwood/ Peters distinction between policy attention causing substantial action or moving boxes around

46 Full circle with Hogwood: We should not confuse the public prominence of political activities with intensity of government concern … much of the most important discussion about shaping public policy in Britain takes place in private.

47 Conclusion – agenda setting and monopolies Definition of problem to limit participation and allocate resources Successful challenges over definition lead to policy change Extent of stability through dominance and change through reframing an empirical question?

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