Networks and problem recognition: advancing the Multiple Streams Approach

Abstract

This paper responds to recent calls for more theoretically driven advancements of the Multiple Streams Approach (MSA). It does so by bringing networks theorizing into dialogue with the MSA; highlighting the inclusionary and exclusionary power of networks for determining problem frames and issue recognition. Subsequently, the paper argues that the addition of networks provides a clearer articulation of the role of institutions in steering problem stream processes, which have often been neglected within the MSA at the expense of a focus on agency. The paper puts forward two propositions. The first is that an issue is more likely to be recognised as a problem if it is considered compatible with the ‘appreciative system’ of the network's dominant coalition. The second proposition is that the more organisations a network consists of and the more varied these organisations are, the more likely it is that the dominant coalition alters a condition’s category if there are changes in the problem stream. These propositions are explored through a comparative analysis of recognition of quality of life as a problem in two local level transport sector networks in the UK. Support for these propositions in the findings suggest that the introduction of networks into the MSA can reduce ambiguity and therefore fortuity in relation to problem recognition; second, that the power of the policy entrepreneur can be facilitated or constrained by the institutional context; and third, that comparing multiple issues and their interactions is important for further advancement of the MSA.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Interviews conducted between 2012 and 2014.

  2. 2.

    Local transport authorities have a duty under the Transport Act (2000) to create a Local Transport Plan that sets out the local authority’s strategic plan for transport in their area. At the time of research the Local Transport Plans needed to be renewed every 5 years, hence the third Local Transport Plan being due for publication in 2011.

  3. 3.

    The Cities and Local Government Act 2016 established a Combined Authority for the Sheffield City Region, replacing the existing Integrated Transport Authority and Passenger Transport Executive arrangement.

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Acknowledgements

Many thanks go to Professor Ian Bache, Professor Greg Marsden and Professor Nikolaos Zahariadis for their very helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. I am also endebted to the two anonymous Policy Sciences reviewers for their very constructive comments. The research underpinning this paper was funded by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Ph.D. Scholarship (Grant Reference ES/I023615/1), for which I am very grateful.

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Reardon, L. Networks and problem recognition: advancing the Multiple Streams Approach. Policy Sci 51, 457–476 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-018-9330-8

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Keywords

  • Multiple Streams Approach
  • Policy networks
  • Problem recognition
  • Framing