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Becoming and Effective Policy Advocate by Bruce Jansson

Becoming and Effective Policy Advocate by Bruce Jansson

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Chapter 6 Chapter 6 Presentation Transcript

  • Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate Bruce Jansson, University of Southern California PowerPoint created by Gretchen Heidemann, MSW, PhD Candidate University of Southern California School of Social Work ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Chapter 6 Committing to an Issue: Building Agendas ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Committing to an Issue: Building Agendas Policy advocates’ first challenge is to get a specific policy issue on decision makers’ agendas in agency, community, or legislative settings They have to use a combination of political, interactional, and analytic skills to place their issues on decision makers’ agendas ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Committing to an Issue: Building Agendas This Chapter discusses: – The importance of agenda-building processes to policy practice – The three stages of agenda building: diagnosing, softening, and activating – How social problems and solutions reach agendas – How political processes shape agendas – How windows of opportunity and policy entrepreneurs shape agendas – How direct-service staff can build agendas – The challenges policy advocates face in shaping agendas ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • How do we know when an issue is on the agenda? In legislative settings: – When legislation has been introduced into the legislative process and referred to a committee, and has attracted the serious attention of some legislators In agency settings: – When it has become part of the agency’s deliberations (i.e. a task force or committee to study it has been formed) In community settings: – When community leaders and decision makers have decided to take it seriously enough to convene meetings to consider solutions ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • A few words of caution… Placing issues or proposals on agendas does not necessarily have a positive outcome – Many issues never reach the agenda because opposing groups successfully use tactics to keep them off the agenda Placement on the agenda does not tell us precisely what kind of proposal or solution will finally emerge – Proposals are finalized in the give-and-take of deliberations ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Taking the First Step Your immediate challenge is to convince others, preferably decision makers, that the problem merits their serious attention You must place the issue on the agenda so that someone will examine the issue in more detail or delegate it to others for further exploration You must try to create favorable conditions, interest, and support for a policy reform at the outset ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Why Agenda Building is Needed Legislatures – They must limit the number of issues they consider and must rank them in some order – If they were to debate the thousands of pieces of legislation introduced each session, they would work to exhaustion and not give careful attention to any of them – Legislators thus reserve their scarce time for those pieces of legislation they most want to concentrate on – They avoid issues that appear to give them little or no political advantage in reelection – However, they are sometimes attracted to issues associated with conflict, if such issues can gain them support among their constituents ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Why Agenda Building is Needed Agencies – Agency executives have many tasks that occupy their time, including policy issues – They must ignore or defer many issues, else they would become exhausted and frustrated – They ignore or defer certain issues because they would embroil the agency in conflict – Policy advocates must convince them that a specific policy innovation will help an agency increase its resources and attract more support, rather than diminishing it or having no effect on an agency’s ability to survive ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Why Agenda Building is Needed Communities – Agenda building occurs in community settings as various issues vie for attention – Advocates may introduce ideas to community groups, the media, city or town councils, school boards, or other community influentials – They may draw attention to a policy proposal by getting a story in the mass media, holding a community forum, or staging a protest – The ultimate goal is to persuade community decision makers to prioritize the issue in their deliberations ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Agenda-Building Funnel Policy advocacy must understand the agenda building funnel: – There are many potential issues that exist in any setting – A specific issue is placed on the decision agenda when someone or some group prioritizes it for systematic deliberation – It then enters policy deliberations where it is waylaid, defeated, or enacted ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Challenges in Agenda Building Challenge 1: Diagnose the context – Policy advocates must diagnose the context to identify contextual constraints and opportunities – If they decide that specific policies will be extremely difficult to change, they must work to change the context or to focus on alternative policy changes – If they decide that the contextual opportunities far outnumber constraints, they can initiate a policy changing strategy at once – In some cases, the prognosis will be guarded or unclear ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Challenges in Agenda Building Challenges 2: Soften the context – Policy advocates must make the context more amenable to a specific policy initiative – They might have conversations with strategically placed persons, or work with a coalition or advocacy group to pressure decision makers to take interest in a specific issue ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Challenges in Agenda Building Challenge 3: Activate change – Policy advocates must get a decision maker or legislator to put an issue on the agenda of the other decision makers in the agency, community, or legislative setting ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Agenda-Building Funnel Agenda building is usually a precursor to other policy practice tasks Even if a proposal is developed first, advocates must return to agenda building to get the issue on decision makers’ agendas Otherwise they find their issue stymied for lack of interest by them ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Agenda-Building Funnel Prior to the writings of John Kingdon, many people ignored the agenda-building task They conveyed that policy reforms magically appear with no prior work by policy practitioners Rationalists assumed that decision makers placed issues on agendas only when they received technical reports or data that recommended a specific change Incrementalists assumed that administrators and legislators only introduced modest changes in existing policies in response to complaints or pressures ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Agenda-Building Funnel Yet others promoted the garbage can theory of agenda building – Particularly in agency settings, most policy problems and solutions remain in a state of limbo—a figurative garbage can—until they are placed on the agendas of decision makers at a later point in time – Myriad problems and solutions also exist in the “garbage cans” of legislatures ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Agenda-Building Funnel Agenda building is a precursor to actual deliberations It gets specific issues or policies on the table to be followed by actual deliberations where they are processed by committees and legislatures What is actually enacted or approved is only a small fraction of the issues and policies that are proposed ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Diagnosing Stage When diagnosing the context, policy advocates must analyze: – streams of problems and solutions – recent professional decisions and trends – political realities ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Diagnosing Stage Streams of problems and solutions – Policy advocates must consider the kinds of problems and solutions that have already been considered in a setting – By doing so, they discover where their issue fits into this larger picture, and a better sense of their issue’s prognosis – They can examine developments in an agency or community during recent years to see that a problem stream exists – A stream of solutions also exists in agency, community, and legislative settings ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Diagnosing Stage Solutions can be classified into 3 groups: 1. Specific programs – Ex: Interventions to help children, single mothers, or older people 2. Those that aim to correct institutional problems – Ex: Financing a program, changing an agency’s fee structure, or enhancing collaboration to serve a specific client group 3. Methods of making decisions Ex: Setting up a task force, establishing a committee, or organizing an interagency planning committee ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Diagnosing Stage Recent Professional Developments and Trends – Fads and trends can powerfully shape the prognosis of a policy reform Ex: A push in the 1990s for collaboration, recent promotion of evidence-based practices – They can be discerned by examining professional journals, talking with professionals, and analyzing the kinds of innovations that funders prioritize – Problem and solution streams exist in a cultural context whether in nations or in specific settings – It is important to be familiar with the culture of specific settings to better understand the kinds of innovations that are relatively feasible in them ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Diagnosing Stage Political Realities – Political developments powerfully influence whether specific issues will be placed on policy agendas – Policy advocates need to consider the viewpoint of important officials by finding out what position they have taken on similar issues or reforms in the past – They also need to consider court rulings that are germane to their issue ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Diagnosing Stage Political realities – In agency settings, they must consider many factors that shape the prognosis of a specific reform, such as: Whether it is consonant with the mission statement The state of the budget Funder interest The position of accrediting bodies – In communities they must consider the viewpoints of Community leaders The public Mass media ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Diagnosing Stage Factors that suggest when a specific policy innovation will be difficult to achieve: – The sheer magnitude of the proposed policy change – Whether the issue is already politicized – Whether persons with considerable power believe that specific policy change will harm their economic, professional, or political self-interest – Whether a specific reform will be expensive or difficult to implement ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage Policy advocates can attempt to enhance the prognosis of a policy reform even before it enters policy deliberations by: – working in problem and solution streams – building political support ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage Working in problem and solution streams – Those who want decision makers to take their problem seriously have to convince them that it is a problem and not merely a condition – A problem poses a threat or danger to someone, whether a group in the population, an agency, or politicians – Problems are more likely to be viewed as important because it is believed that someone will suffer dire consequences if it is not addressed ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage How do we convince other people that certain conditions are problems? 1. Data to argue that a condition is serious in its absolute numbers, that some subset of the population is afflicted far more than other portions of the population, or that the problem is becoming steadily worse – to demonstrate that a specific social problem has important implications that extend beyond a specific issue or population – ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage How do we convince other people that certain conditions are problems? 2. Language / Terminology – – use words such as crisis to describe a condition refer to a social program as “investing” in human needs rather than merely “spending” resources 2. Potential for success demonstrate that a problem is not hopeless and can be ameliorated find successful pilot projects that demonstrate that specific reforms will yield positive outcomes ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage How do we convince other people that certain conditions are problems? 4. Appeal to Values – – such as the ethical principles of beneficence, social justice, and fairness illustrate with specific case studies of persons who suffer from problems 4. State problems in relatively broad terms – – present problems in general terms frame them as important to significant segments of legislators’ constituencies ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage How do we convince other people that certain conditions are problems? 6. Cost-efficiency – try to show that a policy will avert subsequent costly problems 6. Prevention can be a double-edged sword most people prefer preventing a problem to fixing it afterward but decision makers often view prevention negatively they often want to prioritize services for those already afflicted with a problem rather than to fund prevention advocates need to find evidence that they can successfully avert problems when proposing a policy ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage Advocates need to anticipate likely objections or opposition to a specific policy so they can diminish or rebut them As they successfully counter objections, they soften the context, making it easier not only to get an issue placed on the agenda but to get a reform enacted The media can serve as an important educational tool ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage Only certain solutions make it to agency or legislative agendas Decision makers will examine the fiscal, administrative, and political feasibility of those solutions They will also judge a solution’s likely effectiveness and technical merits Policy advocates must try to place a solution in a favorable light if they want it to get onto decision makers’ agendas ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Softening Stage Political Realities – Soften the context by diminishing opposition talk with persons in strategic positions to educate them about the need for a specific reform directly address their concerns or objections correct erroneous information – Construct a “big tent” with many perspectives, even divergent ones be open to input from a variety of people have good listening skills to understand various POVs be willing to compromise ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage The use of tactics (such as timing, coupling, negotiating, assembling early sponsors and supporters, and routing) to pull an issue into the decision funnel Is usually done by a policy entrepreneur – a decision maker, legislator, chairperson, executive, or other person who has the power to pull an issue onto an agenda so that it will receive serious consideration ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Timing and Windows of Opportunity – Relatively brief moments when “the time is ripe” for specific initiatives – Key events can sensitize legislators to a specific issue Ex: Sept. 11th, Hurricane Katrina, the results of an investigation, the shift in majority control from one party to another, annual budget preparations, a new head of government or new Executive Director – Windows of opportunity often close rapidly ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Timing and Windows of Opportunity – In strategizing, policy advocates should: prepare for an opportunity by analyzing an issue or problem recognize when a window of opportunity augurs well for it seize the moment by seeking support for placing it on the decision agenda ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Coupling – Making imaginative connections between the solution, problem, and political streams Ex: Connecting a stimulus package with other social problems such as homelessness ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Framing and Finding Titles – Putting a twist on proposals to make them appealing to decision makers Ex: portray a benefit as an earned benefit to make it difficult for opponents to argue that it is a welfare benefit ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Negotiating and Bargaining – Accommodating different points of view, even before an issue appears on the decision agenda – Try to create a win-win atmosphere that allows different people and factions to believe they will each have a piece of the action ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Assembling Early Sponsors and Supporters – Enlisting people to sponsor a legislative proposal by placing their names on it – They should be powerful politicians who also represent an array of perspectives – Solicit their advice and make them part of the planning process ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Routing – Finding a home base for an issue by routing it to decision makers who want to resolve it in ways that are acceptable – This involves deciding which committee should get jurisdiction ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • The Activating Stage Media Coverage – Getting timely coverage of proposals – Using the media to get stories about activities printed or placed on television ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Can Direct-Service Staff Help to Build Agendas? Legislators and high-level agency staff are best situated to assume pivotal roles in building agendas However, direct-service staff can participate in agenda building in both agency and legislative settings ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Can Direct-Service Staff Help to Build Agendas? Direct-Service Staff can: – Work within their agencies to locate unaddressed or poorly addressed community needs – Read professional literature and find evidence-based practices that could be (but are not) implemented in specific settings – Join coalitions and advocacy groups that already exist in the community and lend them volunteer and other support ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Can Direct-Service Staff Help to Build Agendas? Direct-Service Staff can also: – Move beyond their agencies into the broader policy world – Talk with legislative aides about specific unaddressed or poorly addressed issues that they have seen – Encourage their clients to call high-level officials or help them draft letters to these officials – Ask whether voter registration projects can be organized by their agency – Search for policy entrepreneurs who can place a specific issue on their agency’s or a legislature’s agenda ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Policy Advocacy for Powerless Populations and Unpopular Issues The agenda building process is often skewed against unpopular issues and powerless groups Groups that plug away for unpopular issues and populations may be laying the groundwork for subsequent policy changes ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Policy Advocacy for Powerless Populations and Unpopular Issues Some policy advocates conclude at times that they cannot secure policy initiatives working solely through conventional channels – Ex: Abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights advocates Protests – Can sometimes harden the positions of public officials against the sought reforms – However, they can also get decision makers to pay attention, and draw public awareness to the issue ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Electoral Processes Agenda building often takes place within electoral politics Politicians, parties, and activists try to find issues that: – distinguish them from their opposition – appeal to their natural constituencies as well as to swing voters – divide the opposing party (i.e. wedge issues) – generate support for themselves as compared to their opponents ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Electoral Processes Ideology assumes a key role in the process of agenda building – The two major parties have somewhat different bases of political support – They gravitate toward somewhat different positions on issues – However, they often battle for the center, seeking policies that will appeal to centrist voters so they can gain a winning edge ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Developing Links with Advocacy Groups Policy advocates should consider connecting with an established advocacy group Examples: – Join a local group or a local chapter of a national group, such as NASW – Campaign for politicians they believe will put certain issues on policy agendas ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing
  • Multiple Skills for Agenda Building Policy advocates use all four skills when they try to influence policy agendas – Political skills to analyze and engage in the political stream – Analytic skills to develop and use data in the problem and solution streams – Interactional skills to help proposals reach policy deliberations, persuade people to take specific problems seriously, participate on committees and task forces, and organize coalitions – Value-clarifying skills to decide whether to invest energy in promoting an issue in the first place, and to decide how to frame it ©2011, Cengage Learning, Brooks/ Cole Publishing