Multiple Streams Approach

Where it comes from and what it does: John Kingdon’s 1984 book set the ball rolling (from early ‘garbage can‘ work. For excellent summary, see the video below.

What it is good at: Showing how momentum can build in different places, how change can be resisted, guided, accommodated.  It’s allusive, suggestive; fwiw, it is my ‘favourite’ of the big three theories.   It’s getting used a lot for European Union policy analysis.

What its critics claim it is not good at:

Not always clear on the old agency question.

Designed for agenda-setting, so decision-making/policy formulation/implementation/evaluation is a  bit of a challenge.

Measurement – it doesn’t lend itself easily to the full on quantitative approach.

Excellent Nikolaos Zahariadis video!! Nails it (of course) in 8 minutes.

Paul Cairney’s 1000 word explanation

Latest work on it (that I have read!):

Howlett, M. McConnell, A. and Perl, A. 2015. Streams and stages: Reconciling Kingdon and policy process theory. European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 54, pp.419-434.

Howlett, M. McConnell, A. and Perl, A. 2016. Moving Policy Theory Forward: Connecting Multiple Stream and Advocacy Coalition Frameworks to Policy Cycle Models of Analysis. Australian Journal of Public Administration, in press.

Mukherjee, I. and Howlett, M. 2015. Who Is a Stream? Epistemic Communities, Instrument Constituencies and Advocacy Coalitions in Public Policy-Making. Politics and Governance, Vol. 3, (2), pp.65-75.

Winkel, G. and Leipold, S. 2016. Demolishing Dikes: Multiple Streams and Policy Discourse Analysis. Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 44, (1), pp.108-129.

Other explanations of it:


Key moving parts:xx

Problem Stream

Policy Stream

Politics Stream

Policy Windows

Policy Entrepreneurs


Focusing Events

Process Stream

Programme Stream

Confluence Points

Sub-confluence points

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