Tag Archives: multiple streams framework

When you think climate change, think “dam”…. #3MT

Here’s me giving my spiel in the “Three Minute Thesis” heat at University of Manchester

Here’s the slide I used.

hoover dam3


And… I’m through to the Three Minute Thesis Final to be held on Wednesday June 7, between 2pm and 3:30pm in University Place Lecture Theatre A. You can register for a (free!) ticket





#Awalkinthepark – Policy Theories and how to mash them up.

Making sense of it all?  How do we mash-up public policy theories, improve them. What should we worry about as we do this?

Cairney, P. 2013. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: How Do We Combine the Insights of Multiple Theories in Public Policy Studies? Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 41, (1), pp.1-21.

Petridou, E. 2014. Theories of the Policy Process: Contemporary Scholarship and Future Directions. Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 42, (1), pp.S12-32.

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.

Cairney, who is very good at this sort of thing, points out that combining multiple theories in policy studies could be a Very Good Idea but warns  there are “important ontological, epistemological, methodological, and practical issues that need to be addressed to ensure disciplinary advance.”
(Cairney, 2013: 1)

You can’t, sadly, bish-bosh-she’ll-be-right…  For one thing,

“key terms—such as “evolution,” “punctuated equilibrium,” or “policy entrepreneur”—… may have different meanings and refer to different phenomena within different intellectual traditions.”
(Cairney, 2013: 3)

His article looks at synthesis (combining the lot), complementary approaches (they sit alongside) and contradictory (there’s a Highlander style contest- “there can be only one).

I really really liked this, and it gives significant space to the pros and cons and ins and outs of these three approaches.

“Entrepreneur” may be used to explain policy innovations linked to exceptional individuals, but we can have little confidence that different studies are talking about the same thing and building their research on common foundations (see Christopoulos & Ingold, 2011; Mintrom & Norman, 2009). Such terminological problems may be magnified if we seek to identify similar processes in the natural and social worlds (where, for example, the idea of agency may be profoundly different).
(Cairney, 2013:7)

Parsimony comes with a price-

Treating states as unified actors may produce parsimonious explanation but only at the expense of more nuanced explanations based on organizational procedures, the decision-making environment, and the need for policymakers to bargain within government (pp. 253–54).  Of Allison 1971
(Cairney, 2013:8)

“Complementary” approaches (cheery cherry-picking /bricolage) comes with a price, too..

In most cases, advocates of this approach use a more manageable, and superficial, proxy for theoretical comparison. They produce an empirical case study, often based on documentary analysis supplemented by elite interviews, then set up a summary of several theories, and use those theories to identify a series of perspectives.

In this context, we can use the exercise to draw attention to the assumptions of a dominant understanding of the research problem, but we cannot expect to do justice to the empirical research agenda associated with each theory. The analogy of a “toolkit” for explanation may be apt as it gives us the image of someone who can draw on a wide range of theories but perhaps as a “jack of all trades and master of none” (although the analogy soon becomes contentious, as the flexible theorist may describe himself or herself as someone who knows which jobs require which tools—Ostrom, 2006, p. 8).
(Cairney, 2013:9)

And Cairney makes a point that should not be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention –

For example, Meier (2009) suggests, provocatively, that the popularity of theories depends on the academic abilities and standing of their proponents (compare with Fischer, 2003, p. 111 on the relationship between research findings and trust in the researchers). To this, we can add a more general point about the fashionability of some concepts, and the rise and fall of attention to them, which does not seem to relate to the rise and fall of their value or the weight of the evidence produced (much like the rise and fall of issues on the political agenda).
(Cairney, 2013:12)

And some scholars have a near monopoly on certain information (e.g. they’re the ones who did the elite interviews).  So

“it makes sense to encourage scholars to present multiple empirical narratives or multiple interpretations of the information that they have gathered.”
(Cairney, 2013:14)

After all, the world is very very complicated (and complex) and everyone has a limit to what they can do and know, so we need

“to manage the need to conduct specialist research in some areas and rely on others to provide knowledge of other areas, by seeking the best way to communicate those findings and learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives. We are also subject to factors that promote further academic specialization, such as: increasingly sophisticated research that requires specialization in a small number of fields and, therefore, a reliance on others to conduct research in other fields; and many “career incentives” associated with promotions procedures and the evaluation of academic work (Poteete et al., 2010, pp. 15–17, 20–21).We need some way to decide if the information provided by others is worthy of our attention (and, in a specialized and interdisciplinary world, a means to ensure that we understand the information provided by others).
(Cairney, 2013:15)

Without getting stuck in “fruitless debates” (p15)

Cairney has some choice things to say about the chest-beating and lamp-post pissing (my terms) that can go on at conferences and in journals –

This issue seems more serious when high-ranking peer-reviewed journals encourage fruitless debates in which the authors talk over each other and give each other straw men titles (including the term “positivist,” which is often used to discredit the work of some scholars without considering the substance of their research or arguments) instead of trying to engage on their terms.
(Cairney, 2013:15)

And wants people, within reason, to be open about not just research methods and hypotheses but also their empirical findings

To read for the thesis
Christopoulos, Dimitrios, and Kariin Ingold. 2011. “Distinguishing between Political Brokerage and Political Entrepreneurship.” Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 10: 36–42.

To read after the thesis
Allison, Graham. 1969. “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” American Political Science Review 63 (3): 689–718.

Parker, Charles, Eric Stern, Eric Paglia, and Christer Brown. 2009. “Preventable Catastrophe?” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 17 (4): 206–20.

Petridou has done an admirable job of summarising recent (2011-2) thinking on various policy theories.

Interestingly in Advocacy Coalition Frameworks “coalition defection” is understudied (p.S14) – Guy Pearse’s 2005 thesis on how the greenhouse mafia enforced discipline is worth another look.

Then there is the question of resource coalitions and venue shopping

The issue of coalition resources, a hitherto less developed aspect of the framework, is investigated by Nohrstedt (2011), who suggests some resources are more important than others thus pointing out the need for thinking vertically when it comes to resource salience. Nohrstedt also highlights the instrumentality of policy entrepreneurs in venue shopping and their part in achieving policy change. Policy entrepreneurs in the form of policy brokers and the role in policy change are investigated by Ingold and Varone (2011).
(Petridou, 2014:S14)

There’s also good stuff on Social Construction and Design-

Normative aspects of policymaking were addressed by the social construction of target population and policy design framework, originally by Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram (1993). Policymakers manipulate, respond to, and perpetuate social constructions of target groups; that is, portions of the population receiving benefits or being burdened by costs, partially because it reinforces the policymakers’ gains of political capital (Ingram, Schneider, & deLeon, 2007). A positively constructed group, for example the military, is deserving of benefits, whereas a welfare queen (single mother, usually of color) is unequivocally undeserving of benefits.
(Petridou, 2014:S17)

And as with ACF, they have found it takes a decade to shift perceptions.

On Punctuated Equilibrium she observes that

In order to rid the framework from the pitfalls of the metaphor, Prindle (2012) suggests renaming it “punctuated incrementalism”; indeed Howlett and Migone (2011) find incrementalism to be very much a salient component of PET.
(Petridou, 2014:2S19)

There’s very useful stuff on Multiple Streams Framework (Kingdon)

As per Cairney 2013 above, the term entrepreneur has gotten smudgy

The policy entrepreneur emerged as a complementary component of broader theories of policy change including the ones reviewed in this article (Mintrom & Norman, 2009). PE has suffered from conceptual imprecision because the term “entrepreneur” has traveled across disciplines, because it has been used with many modifiers (policy, public, political etc.), and also because PE is as much about the individual actor (entrepreneur) as it is for the process (entrepreneurship).
(Petridou, 2014:S22)


Strategies are the focus of Brouwer and Biermann (2011). How do policy entrepreneurs manage commons resources? Brouwer and Biermann (2011) identify four types of strategies in their research of Dutch water management: attention and support seeking strategies, linking strategies, relational management strategies, and arena (venue) strategies. They argue that use of these strategies by policy entrepreneurs at the right timing could influence the development of policy streams.
(Petridou, 2014:S22 emphasis added)

She then turns to ‘Evolving Trends’ and mentions ‘Institutional grammar’ and then ‘Narrative Policy Framework’.  This might sit alongside/within/above some kind of discursive institutionalism, perhaps?  Dunno.

The Narrative Policy Framework is an evolving theory of the policy process investigating the empirical role of policy narratives in the policy process and whether policy narratives influence policy outcomes. Policy narratives are strategic stories with a plot, villains and good guys, and a moral lesson (Jones & McBeth, 2010; Shanahan, McBeth, &Hathaway, 2011). They can also include adjuvant components such as a plot and a causal mechanism (CM), and narrative strategies, such as the distributions of costs and benefits and policy beliefs
(Shanahan, Jones, McBeth, & Lane, 2013).
(Petridou, 2014:2S24)

There is some dead useful looking stuff (#notforthesis)  on “Collective Learning Framework”

In two recent articles, Gerlak and Heikkila (2011) and Heikkila and Gerlak (2013) build a conceptual approach to define and understand learning at the collective level, a concept which remains fuzzy despite the amount of literature devoted to it. First, Gerlak and Heikkila (2011) used the extreme case of the Everglades restoration program to define the different aspects of learning in policy making and unpack the factors which inform it. Their 2013 work refines this approach. Heikkila and Gerlak (2013) address three main challenges: first, they define and distinguish between the process of learning and the products of learning; second, they investigate the differences between individual and group learning; and third, they identify factors fostering or inhibiting learning.
(Petridou, 2014:2S25)

And finally, stuff on “Beyond subsystems: Policy Regimes”

Not quite sure where this fits;  Aren’t these just instrument coalitions?

The regimes approach centers on the interplay between policies and politics (May & Jochim, 2013) rather than being a tool aimed at measuring (policy) change. Moving beyond subsystems, policy regimes are conceptualized as “the governing arrangements for addressing policy problems” and may include “institutional arrangements, interest alignments, and shared ideas” (May & Jochim, 2013, p. 428). Ideas are the glue that holds the regimes together, much like beliefs are the glue of subsystems. The policy regimes perspective starts with the policy problem; as a descriptive lens it works backwards to map the governing arrangements for addressing this problem. As an analytical lens, the policy regimes proposes that the stronger the regime, the greater the levels of policy legitimacy, coherence, and durability.
(Petridou, 2014:2S25)

To read for the thesis
Brouwer, Stijn, and Frank Biermann. 2011. “Towards Adaptive Management: Examining the Strategies of Policy Entrepreneurs in Dutch Water Management.” Ecology and Society 16 (4): 5.

Howlett, Michael, and Andrea Migone. 2011. Charles Lindblom Is Alive and Well and Living in Punctuated Equilibrium Land.” Policy and Society 30: 53–62.

Ingold, Karin, and Frédéric Varone. 2011. “Treating Policy Brokers Seriously: Evidence from the Climate Policy.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 22: 319–46.

Ingram, Helen, Anne L. Schneider, and Peter deLeon. 2007. “Social Construction and Policy Design.” In Theories of the Policy Process, ed. Paul A. Sabatier. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 93–126.

Jones, Michael D., and Mark K. McBeth. 2010. “A Narrative Policy Framework: Clear Enough to Be Wrong?” Policy Studies Journal 38 (2): 329–53.

Nohrstedt, Daniel. 2011. “Shifting Resources and Venues Producing Policy Change in Contested Subsystems: A Case Study of Swedish Signals Intelligence Policy.” Policy Studies Journal 39 (3): 461–84.

Prindle, David F. 2012. “Importing Concepts from Biology into Political Science: The Case of Punctuated Equilibrium.” Policy Studies Journal 40 (1): 21–43.

Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Mark K. McBeth, and Paul L. Hathaway. 2011. “Narrative Policy Framework: The Influence of Media Policy Narratives on Public Opinion.” Politics and Policy 39 (3): 373–400.

Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Michael D. Jones, Mark K. McBeth, and Ross R. Lane. 2013. “An Angel in the Wind: How Heroic Policy Narratives Shape Policy Realities.” Policy Studies Journal 41 (3): 453–84.

To read after the thesis

Gerlak, Andrea K., and Tanya Heikkila. 2011. “Building a Theory of Learning in Collaboratives: Evidence from the Everglades Restoration Program.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 21: 619–44.

Heikkila, Tanya, and Andrea K. Gerlak. 2013. “Building a Conceptual Approach to Collective Learning: Lessons for Public Policy Scholars.” Policy Studies Journal 31 (3): 485–513.

Lubell, Mark. 2013. “Governing Institutional Complexity: The Ecology of Games Framework.” Policy Studies Journal 41 (3): 538–60.

Schneider, Anne, and Helen Ingram. 1993. Social Construction of Target Populations: Implications for Politics and Policy.” American Political Science Review 87 (2): 334–47.

And finally (though I should probably link it to another MSF extension paper that I read on the 26th April), Howlett et al.  This is another corker, aimed at combining insights from multiple streams and advocacy coalitions into policy cycle models of analysis (as you’d guess from the title.)

It hasn’t been published in dead tree format, so the pages refer to the pre-publication version, numbered 1 to 15….

So, they are setting out to do some combining (synthesising or complementarity, as per Cairney, 2013)

A pivotal feature of policy studies since the mid-1980s has been the development and use of several different analytical frameworks to help capture the main characteristics and dynamics of policy processes (Pump 2011). These frameworks are oriented toward moving beyond the particularities of policy-making processes in such a way as to guide investigators and help both students and practitioners make sense of the complex set of socio-political activities that constitute policy-making as well as its outputs and outcomes (Althaus et al. 2013; Cairney 2013; Howlett et al. 2009). However in their present state, these models contain contradictory elements and their use has led to many studies and scholars focusing upon or promoting one model over another in a process of ‘dueling analytical frameworks’.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 1)

They point out that both policy-making and so analysis of policy-making is  all very messy and complicated (Bismarck’s sausages would be a GREAT name for a policy wonkery blog, imho).

Their article argues that if models are to advance thinking about policy-making, then both MSF and ACF approaches

“need revision if they are to apply to the post-agenda setting and post-formulation activities involved in policy development and implementation. Specifically, this article argues that a reconciliation of streams, advocacy coalition, and cycles models only becomes possible once it is recognized that neither the multiple streams model nor the ACF, as presently constituted, can deliver fully functional frameworks capable of understanding the entirety of policy-making activity and behaviour.”
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 2-3)

“Cycle” models have been around a long time, despite detractors

(e.g. Colebatch 2006; Sabatier 1991) who have argued that it presents an idealized image of sequential policy-making activity rarely encountered in practice,
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 3)

Yeah. Ibn Khaldun has published bugger all lately…

There’s a nice contrast of the relative strengths of the two approaches

Whereas Kingdon’s units of analysis for discovering the causes of stasis and change on the policy agenda were the heterogeneous forces and factors that converged upon Congress, Sabatier and his colleagues focused on political actors as the drivers of policy development. But rather than rely on the classic vehicle of pluralist group interaction as a mode of collective action (Truman 1971), or the amorphous issue network concept that had been proposed by Heclo (1977), Sabatier and Jenkins Smith created the ACF, an analytical structure in which like-minded actors formed competitive teams within each policy subsystem…. Although helpful in specifying who was involved in policy-making and how they interacted, however, the strength of the ACF formulation came at the expense of ignoring the decision-making process and reverting to a pre- Lasswellian ‘black box’ in which the inputs formulated by a successful coalition somehow were melded together to produce policy outcomes.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 5)

There’s good stuff (as per Mukherjee and Howlett) on the idea of adding two new streams – a “policy process stream” and  a “program stream” to the existing model.  To my untutored eye, these are helpful rather than gaudy/gratuitous.

The policy process stream when the three problem, politics, and policy streams coalesce temporarily in the typical ‘policy window’ fashion that he described. This intersection creates a new policy process stream that becomes the main or central pathway upon which other streams subsequently converge. In turn, critical junctures are created that set up the future impetus for policy deliberations and establish the initial conditions, which animate subsequent policy process advances (or retreats) essentially becoming the ‘choice’ stream mooted by Cohen, March, and Olsen.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 8 – emphasis added)

The program stream;

At this point the ‘policy’ stream separates from the main flow, which is comprised of the process, politics, and problem streams, and is now joined by a program stream composed of the actors and interests working to calibrate new program instruments (and integrating or alternating them with established ones) to generate new outputs.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 9)

FWIW, I think they’re right when they claim

The research possibilities involved in working with this new framework are enormous, once we begin to see the value in adapting and combining the core insights of stages, streams, and coalition approaches, rather than seeing them as mutually exclusive. A new synthesis allows us to meld together analytical approaches that focus on different stages of policy processes, the interplay of multiple forces that shape these processes, and the competition between different sets of actors (and beliefs) as they vie for influence.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 9)

And it looks squiggly beautiful…

howlett et al 2016

To read for the thesis

Voß, J.-P. and A. Simons. 2014. ‘Instrument Constituencies and the Supply Side of Policy Innovation: The Social Life of Emissions Trading.’ Environmental Politics 23(5):735–754.

Wilder, M. and M. Howlett. 2014. ‘The Politics of Policy Anomalies: Bricolage and the Hermeneutics of Paradigms.’ Critical Policy Studies 8(2):183–202.

#Awalkinthepark – Islands in the Stream #Kingdon  #MultipleStreams

So, these two probably could have been better clumped with the Brunner article (see last post) because they are trying to use/modify the famous “Multiple Streams Framework” of John Kingdon.

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

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 and Leipold undertake

“a systematic assessment of the MSF’s core elements from the perspective of policy discourse analysis. Through an understanding of “streams” as discursive patterns, and policy discourses as (historical) couplings of the streams, a new and theoretically consistent interpretation of streams and likely connections between them is offered. One specific focus is on Kingdon’s concept of policy entrepreneurship and how it relates to ideas of agency in discourse analysis. Drawing on the recently proposed Discursive Agency Approach, we discuss how concepts such as subject positions in discourses, agent subjectivization via the dialectic interplay of individual characteristics and structural forces, and discursive practices and strategies relate to and can possibly complement the MSF.”

(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:108)

They use Hajer’s work, of course –

Hajer conceives a policy discourse as “an ensemble of ideas, concepts, and categories through which meaning is given to social and physical phenomena, and which is produced and reproduced through an identifiable set of practices” (Hajer, 2005, p. 300). Hence, a policy discourse is, on one hand, an interpretive scheme (a structure) that transforms experiences into “truth” and as such, exerts power by means of a dominant perception of truth. On the other hand, it has a process dimension. It is produced through agents and, consequently, constantly subject to change. This twofold character of a discourse as both structure and practice—and the resulting tension between stability (structures) and dynamic (practices)—is the essence of the policy discourse concept.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:112)

There’s some mention of counter-stories (p. 113) but this is something I am going to have to do (gasp) some thinking about myself…

My observation about the ‘naturalness’ of certain policies swimming to the top of the policy primeval soup in Brunner (2008) is referenced-

Second, the policy stream encompasses the policy primeval soup, in which a continuous evolutionary process occurs through the (re-)combination of free-floating policy ideas and a subsequent selection process that determines which policy ideas survive and which die out. According to Kingdon, this political selection process is guided by rather distinct selection criteria, which he outlines based on his empirical work.
(Winkel and Liepold, 2016:115, my emphasis)

Well, I clearly have some further reading to do…

Winkel and Leipold  point out the costs of trying to change the system from within (besides the 20 years of boredom)

Constructing (or negating) problems and problem solutions against the logic of such hegemonic societal value discourses comes with high political costs, if it is possible at all. A lack of persuasiveness not only weakens the chances of problems and solutions to survive on the agenda but also dilutes the power of those that back a hopeless case.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:116)

Winkel and Leipold want to fill in the terrain around Kingdon’s three ‘streams’

Caused either by a dramatic increase of the water level and turbulences in the stream (i.e., a significant increase in discursive practices through an evolving debate) or by the occurrence of a disturbance or obstacle (an event) that affects the direction of the flow (i.e., the way policymakers talk about issues), a flood (the “critical time” [Kingdon, 2003, p. 88]) dramatically increases the likelihood of stream convergence.

Once the forces of erosion have broken down the dividing dikes, streams can converge; a new policy may be born, requiring new (institutionally sedimented) dikes (see below) in response to the changed flow of the streams. Hence, policy windows are akin to periods of strong erosive potential in one or more of the streams, resulting in the chance to connect these previously divergent streams by processes of avulsion.

The metaphor of flooding and breaking dikes not only connects nicely to Kingdon’s portrayal of policy windows as “waves” coming down the problem or politics stream but also to his concept of a “tipping point” that puts an idea on the agenda.

Once the tipping point is reached, the dike breaks. In this way, the meander and dike metaphor is suitable to explain the occurrence of significant shifts after long periods of relative stability (the equilibrium, see Baumgartner, Jones, & Mortensen’s [2014], seminal work pointing at a similar interrelation of stabilizing institutions and mobilizing practices). In line with the picture of stream erosion, the equilibrium is, however, never static. Rather, it mimics steady gradual change—sometimes reduced to a minimum through institutionalized (concrete) shores.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:118)


“conceive the streams as flowing through a discursive terrain structured by heights and valleys. This topography constrains the scope for discursive (stream) erosion: policy discourses (linking problems to solutions) are the valleys that were formed through successful (historical) couplings of distinct streams.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:119)

And that’s where the ‘critical conjunctures’ (to use an historical institutionalism term) come in –

Coming back to the metaphor of meanders and dikes, discourses that stretch across the problem and policy streams are the weak points in the topography—the predetermined channel through which the flood will flow once the dike breaks. These form the “critical junctures” (Kingdon, 2003, p. 87) where the streams can converge. In the neoliberal governance discourse, for instance, a social or physical event presented as a case of state failure and incomplete markets allows connections to related (market) solutions in the policy stream, whereas other presentations cannot achieve such connections using this discursive streambed. Only problematizations that are digestible within the specific logic of this discourse can be connected to the specific policy (solution) stream of this discourse—using the specific valley that this discourse creates.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:119)

So what kind of leviathan/great man/deus ex machina can do this sort of thing?  (Asides from the distinction between tortoises and carpe diemers)?  Well, as Fligstein notes, you need social skills up the wazoo.  Winkel and Leipold add this

certain characteristics of a discourse agent. In a previous publication, we distinguish individual skills (e.g., rhetoric and diplomatic skills, intelligence, diligence, education, knowledge of an issue, commitment, experience) and positional characteristics (e.g., professional position, membership and position within a political organization, credibility, mandate to act/make decisions, material capabilities/ resources, ecological/social situation with which actors are faced, connection to discursive structures) (Leipold and Winkel, 2013). These characteristics largely mirror the skills and resources Kingdon (2003) attributes to policy entrepreneurs. In contrast to Kingdon, however, a policy discourse perspective considers these characteristics not as given but as constituted through an interplay of individual abilities with the structural attributes of a specific subject position in the discourse.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:121)

And the skills you need for agenda setting are not the ones that will help with policy formation and policy implementation and evaluation, now are they?

And anyway, you have to be doing the softening up work beforehand.

Kingdon indicates several examples from a rich repertoire of strategies in which entrepreneurs must engage to achieve successful coupling. In all of these, timing is essential (see also Herweg, 2013; R€ub, 2006). Before a policy window opens, entrepreneurs must already be engaged in preparatory work, the rhetorical “softening up” (Kingdon, 2003, pp. 128, 141) of the political climate for a policy proposal. Logical connections to be made at the time the window opens must be prepared discursively in advance.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:122)

Policy entrepreneurs need to construct story lines, may need to engage in emotionalization and polarization, and strategies of exclusion, which are essential to the process of coupling as they restrain complexity into manageable story lines (Winkel and Leipold, 2016:123).  There’s a need for normative power, and re-a and de-issuing policies.  What’s these?

Re- and de-issuing refers to (first) the de-coupling of a policy problem from a certain policy solution. For instance, in an analysis of policymaking related to the implementation of the U.S. Legal Timber Protection Act (Leipold & Winkel, 2015), we found that the timber trade associations and retailers opposing the new act (which prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and timber products on the U.S. market, and as such increases the obligation to apply due care) aimed to strategically reframe the policy problem away from illegal logging toward a case of government overreach. This (first) de-issuing and (then) re-issuing was launched to subsequently attack the policy solution, that is, the Legal Timber Protection Act.
Re- and re-issuing can also occur across policy domains…
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:123-4).

There’s also ‘discourse shopping’ –

“The strategic reformulation of problems and possible solutions in response to changing political discourses

(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:124)

And finally spillovers across domains –

policy discourses and agents developing similar story lines in different policy domains may actually facilitate interconnection. For instance, the aforementioned neoliberal market governance discourse has produced similar story lines and subject positions in distinct policy domains. As Kingdon points out, spillovers need appropriate category constructions, which is exactly what discourse agents may perform using the repertoire of such a specific policy discourse in different policy domains.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:124)

i.e. the universal acid of ‘the market’…

To read
Jones, Michael D., Holly L. Peterson, Jonathan J. Pierce, Nicole Herweg, Amiel Bernal, Holly Lamberta Raney, and Nikolaos Zahariadis. 2016. “A River Runs Through It: A Multiple Streams Meta-Review.” Policy Studies Journal 44 (1): 13–36.
Petridou, Evangelia. 2014. “Theories of the Policy Process: Contemporary Scholarship and Future Directions.” Policy Studies Journal 42: 12–32. doi:10.1111/psj.12054.


Mukherjee and Howlett have a similar improve-the-Multiple-Streams-Framework agenda. Specifically, they want to disaggregate the notion of the policy entrepreneur who is able (with some luck) to create a ‘policy window’. Their

article argues that the policy world Kingdon envisioned can be better visualized as one composed of distinct subsets of actors who engage in one specific type of interaction involved in the definition of policy problems: either the articulation of problems, the development of solutions, or their enactment. Rather than involve all subsystem ac-tors, this article argues that three separate sets of actors are involved in these tasks: epistemic communities are engaged in discourses about policy problems; instrument constituencies define policy alternatives and instruments; and advocacy coalitions compete to have their choice of policy alternatives adopted.
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:65)

They observe that

Many attempts at extending the MSF model beyond agenda-setting have been less than successful in matching or describing policy empirics involved in policy formulation and be-yond because they have inherited from Kingdon only very weak depictions of what is a stream and, more to the point, of whom it is composed (Howlett et al., 2015).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:67)

Policy entrepreneurs look powerful when they’ve pushed at open doors, but

They are “‘surfers waiting for the big wave’ not Poseidon-like masters of the seas” (Cairney & Jones, 2015, p. 5).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:68)

Mukherjee and Howlett point to the work of Knaggard, who has

“argued that a single notion of entrepreneurship is misplaced and rather sees the need for at least a second more loosely de-fined type of “problem broker” emerging out of the problem stream to popularize or highlight a specific problem frame. This kind of actor, she argues, has a primary interest in framing policy problems and having policymakers accept these frames, thereby conceptual-ly distinguishing problem framing “as a separate process” from policy entrepreneurship and “enabling a study of actors that frame problems without making policy suggestions”, unlike traditional notions of policy entrepreneurs (Knaggård, 2015, p. 1).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:68)

So, alongside ‘epistemic communities’ (in the problem stream), they import another term –

a second group of actors, “instrument constituencies”, whose focus is much less on problems than on solutions. Instrument constituencies is a term used in the comparative public policy field to describe the set of actors involved in solution articulation, independently of the nature of the problem to be addressed (Voss & Simons, 2014). Such constituencies advocate for particular tools or combinations of tools to address a range of problem areas and hence are active in the “policy” stream King-don identified, one that heightens in activity as policy alternatives and instruments are formulated and combined to address policy aims.
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:70)

As they observe, think tanks (a current obsession of mine),

fall into this category, as they provide policymakers with “basic in-formation about the world and societies they govern, how current policies are working, possible alternatives and their likely costs and consequences” (McGann, Vi-den, & Rafferty, 2014, p. 31).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:70)

And they bring it all together very very neatly with this figure, which probably will not mean enough to you if you haven’t been able to read the literature (because time, because paywalls).  I will be re-reading this soonish…

policy streams

To read

Cairney, P. (2013). Standing on the shoulders of giants: How do we combine the insights of multiple theories in public policy studies? Policy Studies Journal, 41(1), 1-21.
Craft, J., & Howlett, M. (2012). Policy formulation, governance shifts and policy influence: Location and content in policy advisory systems. Journal of Public Policy, 32(2), 79-98.
Herweg, N., Huß, C., & Zohlnhöfer, R. (2015). Straightening the three streams: Theorising extensions of the multiple streams framework. European Journal of Political Research, 54(3), 435-449.

#Awalkinthepark  – fantasy technologies, fantasy policies and polar bears #wearetoast

So, over the last two days, even with The Wife about, I have somehow contrived to read nine journal articles about policy theory, policy implementation etc.  I really do need to get out more.  Rather than blog them in the order I read them, imma go for some sort of logical clumping (the borders are, of course, fuzzy).  This time-

den Besten, J. Arts, B. and and Verkooijen, P. 2014. The evolution of REDD+: An analysis of discursive-institutional dynamics. Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 35, pp.40-48.

Lerum Boasson, E. and  Wettestad, J. 2014. Policy invention and entrepreneurship: Bankrolling the burying of carbon in the EU. Global Environmental Change, November 2014, Vol.29, pp.404-412.

Brunner, S. 2008. Understanding policy change: Multiple streams and emissions trading in Germany. Global Environmental Change, Vol 18, pp.501– 507.

So, den Besten et al tell the tale of the growth of “REDD+” from an idea to a policy between 200 to 2011, using a Discursive Institutional Analysis.  It’s an interesting tale, well told, and it is deeply depressing, yet useful.

They ask (and answer)

1) What actors or groups of actors took part in the negotiation process that culminated in the REDD+ agreements?
2) What ideas and concepts did these actors introduce or contest in this process?
3) To what extent did the REDD+ discourse contribute to changes in institutional arrangements and how did the institutional context in turn influence the further develop-ment of the discourse?
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 41)

They use discursive institutionalism (see multiple recent #walkinthepark blog posts) to good effect and introduce the concept of the “discursive institutional spiral”

This term refers to the dynamic process of institutionalisation of discourses on the one hand and the opening up of discourses in response to these institutionalisation processes on the other. It suggests the ‘spiralling’ of a discourse through expanding constellations of actors and ideas that contribute to discourse development, and subsequent moments of discourse institutionalisation in arrangements and practices. The discourse then narrows down, including and excluding certain ideas in new rulemaking. Such spiralling is also an expression of power, because some actors and ideas will ‘win’ over others in this discursive-institutional process.
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 41)

Predictably enough, there was a cynical birth to this particular fantasy policy  [my interpretation]–

“developed nations with large expanses of forests dominated the debate at this time. They wanted to be allowed to credit the protection of their forests and use these credits to offset part of their carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction obligations. This led to protracted discussions with other developed countries and the complete disengagement of developing countries”
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 42)

And of course, quelle surprise

As REDD+ initiatives developed, the realisation also grew that its implementers lacked the capacity to tackle the drivers of deforestation, in particular international drivers associated with commercial agriculture (Karsenty, 2008). Finally, many countries found that the coordination of REDD+ with other sectors such as energy, food and commodity agriculture proved difficult…
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 44)


So, this spiral, and the discourse coalitions, probably meshes well with Kingdon’s “policy entrepreneurs” and the recent (Mukherjee and Howlett) work, which I will come back to.

Here’s the spiral, btw-

discursive spiral policy stream


They conclude, reasonably enough –

“Ideas do not emerge out of a void and an expansion of ideas and actors is needed to come to new institutionalisation processes. Hence, ideas and institutions are symbiotic and cannot exist separately.”
(den Besten, et al., 2014: 4ˊ)

Reader, I REDD it and wept, and imho you should too.

Next up, another brilliant paper – Lerum Boasson and Wetestad have written a corker about how CCS became (briefly) flavour of the month, thanks to “tortoise” and “carpe diem” policy entrepreneurs.


introduce new distinctions between different kinds of entrepreneurship directed at opening and exploiting policy windows. Actors with differing motivations and commitments may perform entrepreneurship that contributes to policy invention: what we call deeply committed tortoises may help to create and shape a policy window, whereas carpe-diemers, with a shallower commitment and a more short-term approach, are more active in exploiting policy windows. Further, entrepreneurs may combine different techniques – prominent examples being ‘framing’ and what we call ‘procedural engineering’.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:404)

What exactly is procedural engineering? I’m glad you asked. According to the authors, it is

is entrepreneurship directed at altering the distribution of authority and information concerning the political issue in question, for instance through networking, bargaining techniques, issue-couplings and initiation of new decision making procedures (see Boasson, 2014). In short, procedural engineering entrepreneurship is directed at changing ‘the rules of the game’. Procedural engineering covers many entrepreneurial techniques discussed in the literature on policy entrepreneurs, such as lobbying, coalition building, orchestrating networks, venue shopping and collaborative activities with elite groups (e.g. Roberts and King, 1991; Mintrom, 1997; Mintrom and Norman, 2009; Huitema and Meijerink, 2010).
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:405)

They think that without both torise and carpe diem entrepreneurship, windows of opportunity will come to naught (p.406).

They then tell the sad tale, which now seems ancient history, of how the European Council announced in March 2007 the goal of ‘up to 12’ CC demonstration plants in operation by 2015.  Oops.

They do this by policy document analysis but also a bunch of interviews –

Nor was CCS mentioned as a possible abatement option in the 2003 Emissions Trading Directive (Directive 2003/87). Our interviewees note that EU officials hardly paid attention to CCS at that time. A civil society representative mentions Commission officials from DG Environment who claimed that CCS was an unrealistic and somewhat ‘crazy’ idea.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:407)

And interestingly, the US involvement (Futuregen etc) didn’t help, because of , well, Bush –

as noted by one EU official we interviewed, ‘CCS had a credibility problem (. . .) The Bush initiatives were more negative than positive for the EU process because the environmental camp was against everything that Bush was for.’
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:407)

Oddly (p.407) they bring the IPCC 4th Assessment report forward to 2006. Perhaps a typo?

There’s a nice quote from the former Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies, who was a reluctant but forceful advocate of CCS –

Davies, who had not engaged in CCS previously, summed up his view on CCS in these words: ‘I hate CCS. . .It is just that I hate coal more. We have to promote CCS. China, India and the US need to realize that they will have to pay a lot more if they want to use coal’ (quoted in Friends of Europe, 2008, p. 24). Davies swiftly started to exploit the policy window for CCS in an entrepreneurial manner….
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:408)

They suggest that four types of entrepreneurship mechanisms exist –

(1) Window Identification,
(2) Window Engineering,
(3) Agenda Setting and
(4) Decision Strategy.
First, Window Identification denotes the framing of a particular situation at a special moment in time as appropriate for dealing with certain political problems or solutions.…
Second, the Commission officials together with the German and French presidencies performed Window Engineering: they altered the formal decision-making procedures in a way that boosted the capacity of the political system for efficient, multiple decision-making.  [A sort of venue shopping and venue combining, possibly with some issue shopping too MH]
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:409-410)


And what is in it for some of these carpe diem entrepreneurs? Well, that’s obvious…

CCS was presented as an indis-pensable climate solution, necessary for the EU to be able to tackle future climate obligations and challenges. Pushing CCS gave the Carpe Diemers an opportunity to demonstrate their own political vigour and leadership.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:410)


Why did they write the article?

Thus far, the literature on policy entrepreneurs has focused more on success factors that enable particular persons to be especially influential than on the defining characteristics of entrepreneurship. In this article we have rather conceptualized two important dimensions of entrepreneurship (i.e. techniques and commitment) in relation to the concept of window of opportunity and suggested four different entrepreneurship mechanisms. We hope that this can lead to a more nuanced debate about what entrepreneurship is and how it plays into policy making.
(Lerum Boasson and Wetestad, 2014:411)

Succeeded in spades This is a must-read/re-read…


Brunner’s piece is also very useful.  He too is interested in policy entrepreneurship, and how fantasy policies [again, my interpretation, not his] become ‘popular’. He uses Kingdon’s multiple streams framework, and its ‘policy window’ concept to look at how emissions trading came to Germany.

“At the same time, however, the findings imply that a number of relevant factors are not sufficiently considered by the theory, most notably the influence of multi-level governance structures, learning processes, and networks. This demonstrates that the multiple streams approach on its own is not sufficient to fully understand the case study example. Hence, for a better understanding of policy change it is suggested that scholars need to evaluate the potential for amending and combining Kingdon’s model with other explanatory approaches.”
(Brunner, 2008: 501)

There’s a nice observation that I’ve not seen elsewhere about the nature of policy windows –

When those three streams join they temporarily create advantageous choice opportunities which Kingdon terms ‘‘policy windows’’ or ‘‘windows of opportunity’’ (both terms are used interchangeably); a situation where a‘‘problem is recognised, a solution is developed and available in the policy community, a political change makes the right time for policy change, and potential constraints are not severe’’ (Kingdon, 1984, p. 174). Kingdon uses the metaphor of a launch window in a space flight mission. If the window is lost, then the launch has to wait until alignments become appropriate again. The successful launch of a policy change is the result of the opening of such a ‘‘window of opportunity’’ in the interplay of multiple streams. In this view, agendas are not just a reflection of power but also depend on chance.
(Brunner, 2008:502, emphasis added)

So, you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that the energy companies told the politicians that the lights would go out;

The Commission asked the Ministry for the Environment (BMU), which is responsible for the allocation process, to scale back the amount of emission permits. German industry officials, however, urged the Government to resist. In a letter to Chancellor Merkel, the officials from large power firms alleged that if the Government agreed to the Commission’s demands, the additional costs would force industry to re-think planned investment in German energy capacity (VDEW, 2006).
(Brunner, 2008:502, emphasis added)

There’s a nice mention of “conflict expansion” and polar bears-

Born shortly before Christmas 2006 in the Berlin Zoo, Knut quickly came to embody an international symbol of climate change vulnerability. The German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel claimed that there is ‘‘no other animal that better symbolises global warming’’ (cited in Guardian, 2007). In a very emotional way Knut combined the two issues of global warming and animal rights. Such issue linkage can provide significant opportunities for policy entrepreneurs (Howlett, 1998). According to Kingdon (1984, p. 173) the key element in conflict expansion is the way an issue is framed. Following this logic, environmentalists used Knut to expand the reach of global warming to the controversy on animal rights.
(Brunner, 2008:503)

This last paper needs to be combined with Winkel and Leipold, 2016, btw,and others – there are some serious and interesting additions to the Multi-Streams Framework being done.

I worry a little about the ‘naturalness’ of the primeval policy soup, btw, and the notion that “the ones that are technically and financially feasible swim to the top (p.504, my emphasis). I think there is work that goes into deciding (with some limits!) of what counts as feasible. Art of the possible and all that…

As well as pointing to the need to consider multi-level games on politics, Brunner also points to the notion of policy learning –

Second, some interviewees stressed the notion of learning for explaining the policy shift towards auctioning. Both (Sabatier, 1988; Hall, 1993) argue that policy change is dependent on a process of social learning by government, business, and wider society. In understanding policy change, analysts also need to focus on elite opinion and the factors that encourage shifts in belief systems over long periods of time. Kingdon’s theory, however, lacks a distinctive consideration of learning processes. It does not pay sufficient attention to the way previous policies affect current debates and, ultimately, instrument choice. As a result, it has been criticised as being ‘‘ahistorical’’ (Weir,1992).
(Brunner, 2008:506)

This was something that Ross Garnaut was adamant on in 2011- the Australians had learned the lessons of the EUETS…

The take-home from these three papers is this –

We can trade trees, we can pretend we are going to bury carbon in saline aquifers, and we can set up markets in carbon.  None of it matters.  We didn’t act when we should have; all these are simply bargaining moves, busy work to make people think that they are helping.  We – those who reached adulthood before 1992 – have culpability. We allowed our stupid species to stay on its stupid path.  We can’t say we weren’t warned, when it all goes wrong for us (as it is already going wrong for other species, and other members of our own species.)