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PPA 691 – Seminar in Public Policy Analysis. Lectures 3&4 – Problem Structuring. Nature of Policy Problems.

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ppa 691 seminar in public policy analysis

PPA 691 – Seminar in Public Policy Analysis

Lectures 3&4 – Problem Structuring

nature of policy problems
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Problem structuring, which is a continuously recurring phase of policy inquiry in which analysts search among competing problem formulations of different stakeholders, is no doubt the most important activity performed by policy analysts.
  • It is so important because policy analysts seem to fail more often because they solve the wrong problem than because they get the wrong solution to the right problem.
nature of policy problems3
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Beyond problem solving.
    • Policy analysis is a dynamic, multilevel process in which methods of problem structuring take priority over methods of problem solving (see figure).
nature of policy problems5
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Beyond problem solving.
    • Distinctions among problem-related processes.
      • Problem sensing versus problem structuring.
      • Problem structuring versus problem solving.
      • Problem resolving versus problem unsolving and problem dissolving.
  • Characteristics of problems.
    • Interdependence of policy problems (policy messes).
      • Analytic versus holistic approaches.
    • Subjectivity of policy problems.
    • Artificiality of policy problems.
    • Dynamics of policy problems.
nature of policy problems6
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Characteristics of problems (contd.)
    • In short, systems of problems (messes) cannot be decomposed into independent subsets without running the risk of producing the right solution to the wrong problem.
    • The whole is greater (qualitatively different) than the sum of its parts.
    • A recognition of the interdependence, subjectivity, artificiality, and dynamics of policy problems alerts us to the possible unanticipated consequences that may follow from policies based on the right solution to the wrong problem.
nature of policy problems7
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Problems versus issues.
    • If policy problems are really systems of problems, then policy issues are equally complex.
    • Policy issues reflect not only conflict over courses of actions, but over definitions of the problem.
nature of policy problems9
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Problems versus issues.
    • Major issues.
      • Those encountered at highest levels of government within and between federal, state, and local jurisdictions.
      • Involve questions of agency mission.
    • Secondary issues.
      • Located at the level of agency programs at the federal, state, and local levels.
      • The setting of program priorities and the definition of target groups and beneficiaries.
nature of policy problems10
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Problems versus issues.
    • Functional issues.
      • Located at both the program and project levels.
      • Involve questions of budget, finance, and procurement.
    • Minor issues.
      • Located at the level of specific projects.
      • Involve questions of personnel, staffing, employee benefits, vacation times, working hours, and standard operating procedures.
nature of policy problems11
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Problems versus issues.
    • Strategic policies are policies where the consequences are relatively irreversible.
    • Operational polices are policies where the consequences are relatively reversible.
nature of policy problems12
Nature of Policy Problems
  • Three classes of policy problems.
    • Well-structured.
      • Prototype: completely computerized decision problems.
    • Moderately structured.
      • Prototype: prisoner’s dilemma.
    • Ill-structured.
      • Prototype: most important problems.
problem structuring in policy analysis
Problem Structuring in Policy Analysis
  • The requirements for solving ill-structured problems demand that the analyst take an active role in defining the problem.
problem structuring in policy analysis15
Problem Structuring in Policy Analysis
  • Creativity in problem structuring.
    • The product of the analysis is sufficiently novel that most people could not or would not have arrived at the same solution;
    • The process of analysis is sufficiently unconventional that it involves the modification or rejection of previous accepted ideas;
    • The process of analysis requires sufficiently high motivation and persistence that analysis takes place with high intensity or over long periods of time;
problem structuring in policy analysis16
Problem Structuring in Policy Analysis
  • Creativity in problem structuring (contd.).
    • The product of analysis is regarded as valuable by analysts, policymakers, and other stakeholders, since it provides an appropriate solution to the problem; And.
    • The problem initially posed is so ambiguous, value, and ill defined that part of the task is to formulate the problem itself.
problem structuring in policy analysis17
Problem Structuring in Policy Analysis
  • Phases of problem structuring.
    • Problem search.
    • Problem definition.
    • Problem specification.
    • Problem sensing.
problem structuring in policy analysis19
Problem Structuring in Policy Analysis
  • Errors of the third type (EIII).
    • How well do the substantive and formal problems correspond to the original problem situation?
      • If most problem situations are messes, then models should reflect complexity.
    • Types of errors.
      • Type I – rejecting the null hypothesis when it is true.
      • Type II – accepting the null hypothesis when it is false.
      • Type III – solving the wrong problem.
types of policy models
Types of Policy Models
  • Policy models are simplified representations of selected aspects of a problem situation constructed for specific purposes.
    • By definition, they are artificial constructs.
  • Descriptive models.
    • The purpose of descriptive models is to explain and/or predict the causes and consequences of policy choices.
      • Used to monitor the outcomes of policy actions and to forecast performance.
types of policy models21
Types of Policy Models
  • Normative models.
    • Explain and predict, but also to provide rules and recommendations for optimizing some utility or value.
    • Example: compound interest.
forms of policy models
Forms of Policy Models
  • Verbal models.
    • Expressed in everyday language.
    • The equivalent of substantive problems.
    • Limitation: the reasons for recommendations and predictions may be hidden.
  • Symbolic models.
    • Use mathematical symbols to describe relationships among key variables believed to characterize a problem. The premises must be made explicit.
forms of policy models24
Forms of Policy Models
  • Procedural models.
    • Represent dynamic relationships among variables believed to characterize a policy problem.
    • Example:
      • Decision tree.
methods of problem structuring
Methods of Problem Structuring
  • Boundary analysis (used to estimate boundaries of metaproblem).
    • Saturation sampling.
    • Elicitation of problem representations.
    • Boundary estimation.
  • Classificational analysis.
    • Uses logical division and logical classification.
    • Criteria.
      • Substantive relevance.
      • Exhaustiveness.
      • Disjointness.
      • Consistency.
      • Hierarchical distinctiveness.
methods of problem structuring26
Methods of Problem Structuring
  • Hierarchy analysis.
    • Possible clauses, plausible causes, and actionable causes.
    • Uses same rules as classificational analysis.
  • Synectics.
    • Personal analogies.
    • Direct analogies.
    • Symbolic analogies.
    • Fantasy analogies.
methods of problem structuring27
Methods of Problem Structuring
  • Brainstorming.
    • Groups should be composed of knowledgeable subjects.
    • Idea generation and idea evaluation should be kept separate.
    • Atmosphere should be open and permissive.
    • Idea-evaluating should only begin after idea-generating has ceased.
    • At the end of idea-evaluating, ideas should be prioritized and incorporated into a proposal that contains a conceptualization of the problem and its potential solutions.
methods of problem structuring28
Methods of Problem Structuring
  • Multiple perspective analysis.
    • Technical perspective.
    • Organizational perspective.
    • Personal perspective.
  • Assumptional analysis.
    • Stakeholder identification.
    • Assumption surfacing.
    • Assumption challenging.
    • Assumption pooling.
    • Assumption synthesis.
methods of problem structuring29
Methods of Problem Structuring
  • Argumentation mapping.
    • Assessing probability and plausibility of policy argument warrants.