Tag Archives: Policy Entrepreneurs

#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.)