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. • 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.
Introduction • 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.
Introduction • 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.
Introduction • 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.
Introduction • 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.
Introduction • 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 • 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Path • Tell your story (contd.) • Report format. • Table format. • References and sources. • Memo format. • The sound bite and the press release.