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Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework

Kingdon’s Multiple Streams

Kingdon’s multiple streams arose from the desire to understand the often murky, messy policymaking process that is often fraught with conflicting interests and perceptions with various actors which was not achieved by traditional models that depicted this process to be linear, coherent and systematic usually by rational and consensual power groups.

This model allows us to view the policymaking process in its conflicting internal environment, to examine his problems are problematised, to consider the interests and actions of different players as well as the context in which policymaking occurs, and actions are dictated.

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Policymaking is divided into three major streams – where streams are viewed as differentiated clustered with similarly minded groups of actors and interests. These streams include the problem stream, the policy stream and the political stream.

The Problem Stream

The problem stream is where the problems that need policy address to arise are detected and consequently framed to make them palatable for policy action. The policy stream denotes how issues are brought to the attention of policymakers in and around government – and the process is often contested by many actors on its definition, scope and perspective. There are also multiple ways in which these issues are highlighted – including through surveys, research, processing of indicator data, formal and informal feedback among others.

Interpretation of data is often a central tenet in the policy stream, and problems often need strong actors to push them to the priority of policymakers through various deliberate actions that compel policymakers to give attention.

The Policy Stream

The second stream, known as the policy stream is billed by Kingdon as the policy ‘primeval soup’ and its in this stream where policies are generated, developed on detail, rejected and selected. The rejection and selection of ideas in this stream depend on how well the policies are developed, their fit with dominant values, the political support they garner in the current environment, cost feasibility, technical feasibility as well as how well they are anticipated to work.

Kingdon proposes that persons often support policies with familiar tenets than entirely new ones – and often times the ideas generated are founded on existing practice orb combination of other tried and tested policies to form new ones.

In the policy stream, a shortlist of alternatives is generally created on the basis of the criteria already reviewed in the preceding paragraph, and ideas with well-worked available options often have higher odds of being adopted. Policies and ideas are seen to fit well with the dominant values, those with acceptable budgetary constraints, higher familiarity and sufficient detail often rise to the top of the shortlist. While many alternatives are commonly available, their feasibility dictates those actually available for consideration and action.

The Political Stream

The political stream is dictated by factors such as the ideological perspective of the administration of the day, election results, campaigns by lobby groups and the prevailing political climate. Often time questions of jurisdiction do arise on different policies with different levels of governments unable to fully agree on whose docket a given policy falls.

This kind of jostling may see policy streams trampled or pushed up the priority lists – as governments seek to avoid costly endeavours or be seen to take charge.

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Inherent to this framework is the proposition that the three streams operate independently except in specific circumstances known as ‘policy windows’ where the participants in each stream dump their hardliner positions for a common goal to work towards a unified solution. Such ‘coupling’ is typically facilitated by special operatives known as “policy entrepreneurs”.

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