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PPA 691 – Seminar in Public Policy Analysis. Lecture 1a – Introduction to Public Policy Analysis. Introduction. Policy analysis is a social and political activity. The subject matter concerns the lives and well-being of large numbers of our fellow citizens.

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ppa 691 seminar in public policy analysis

PPA 691 – Seminar in Public Policy Analysis

Lecture 1a – Introduction to Public Policy Analysis

  • Policy analysis is a social and political activity.
    • The subject matter concerns the lives and well-being of large numbers of our fellow citizens.
    • The process and results of policy analysis usually involve other professionals and interested parties.
      • Done in teams and office-wide settings.
      • Immediate consumer is a client, who may be a hierarchical superior.
      • Ultimate audience includes diverse subgroups of politically attuned supporters and opponents.
  • Policy analysis: More art than science.
    • Draws on intuition as much as method.
  • Eightfold path.
    • Steps.
      • Define the problem.
      • Assemble some evidence.
      • Construct the alternatives.
      • Select the criteria.
      • Project the outcomes.
      • Confront the tradeoffs.
      • Decide!
      • Tell your story.
  • Eightfold path (contd.)
    • Steps not necessarily taken in precisely this order, and not all may be significant for each problem. But serves as a starting point.
  • Iteration is continual.
    • The problem-solving process – being the product of trial and error – is iterative, so that you usually must repeat each of these steps, sometimes more than once.
  • Iteration is continual (contd.)
    • The spirit in which you take any of these steps, especially the earliest phases of your project, should be highly tentative.
  • Some of the guidelines are practical, but most are conceptual.
    • Most concepts are obvious, but some are technical and some are common terms used in special ways
    • All concepts become intelligible through experience and practice.
  • The concepts come embedded in concrete particulars.
    • In real life, policy problems appear as a confusing welter of details.
    • Concepts are formulated in the abstract.
    • Analyst must learn to see the analytic concepts in the concrete manifestations.
  • Your final product.
    • Coherent narrative style.
    • Steps.
      • Describe problem.
      • Lay out alternatives.
      • Each course of action has projected outcomes, supported by evidence.
      • If no alternative dominates, discuss nature and magnitude of trade-offs.
      • State recommendation.
the eightfold path
The Eightfold Path
  • Define the Problem.
    • Think of deficits and excesses.
    • The definition should be evaluative.
    • Quantify if possible.
    • Conditions that cause problems are also problems.
    • Missing an opportunity is a problem.
    • Common pitfalls in problem definition.
      • Defining the solution in the problem.
      • Be skeptical about the causal claims implicit in diagnostic problem definitions.
the eightfold path9
The Eightfold Path
  • Assemble Some Evidence.
    • Think before you collect.
      • The value of evidence.
      • Self-control.
    • Do a literature review.
    • Survey “best practice.”
    • Use analogies.
    • Start early.
    • Touching base, gaining credibility, brokering consensus.
    • Freeing the captive mind.
the eightfold path10
The Eightfold Path
  • Construct the alternatives.
    • Start comprehensive, end up focused.
    • Model the system in which the problem is located.
    • Reduce and simply the list of alternatives.
    • Design problems.
    • A linguistic pitfall.
the eightfold path11
The Eightfold Path
  • Select the criteria.
    • Apply evaluative criteria to judging outcomes, not alternatives.
    • Criteria selection builds on problem definitions – and continues.
    • Evaluative criteria commonly used in policy analysis
      • Efficiency.
      • Equality, equity, fairness, justice.
      • Freedom, community, and other ideas.
the eightfold path12
The Eightfold Path
  • Select the criteria (contd.)
    • Weight conflicting evaluative criteria.
      • The political process takes care of it.
      • The analyst imposes a solution.
    • Practical criteria.
      • Legality.
      • Political acceptability.
      • Robustness and improvability.
    • Criteria in optimization models.
      • Linear programming.
      • Improving linguistic clarity.
the eightfold path13
The Eightfold Path
  • Project the Outcomes.
    • Projection = Model + Evidence.
    • Attach magnitude estimates.
    • Break-even estimates.
    • The optimism problem.
      • Scenario writing.
      • The other guy’s shoes heuristic.
      • Undesirable side effects.
      • The ethical costs of optimism.
the eightfold path14
The Eightfold Path
  • Project the outcomes (contd.)
    • The outcomes matrix.
    • Linguistic pitfalls.
  • Confront the trade-offs.
    • Commensurability
      • Break-even analysis revisited.
    • Without projecting outcomes, there is nothing to trade-off.
    • Simplify the comparison process.
the eightfold path15
The Eightfold Path
  • Decide!
    • The twenty-dollar-bill test.
  • Tell your story.
    • The New York taxi driver test.
    • You, your client, and your audiences
    • What medium to use?
    • Your story should have a logical narrative flow.
    • Some common pitfalls.
      • Following the eightfold path.
      • Compulsive qualifying.
      • Showing your work.
      • Listing without explaining.
      • Style.
the eightfold path16
The Eightfold Path
  • Tell your story (contd.)
    • Report format.
      • Table format.
      • References and sources.
    • Memo format.
    • The sound bite and the press release.