Three habits of successful policy entrepreneurs

This post is one part of a series – called Practical Lessons from Policy Theories and it summarizes this paper. 

Policy entrepreneurs’ invest their time wisely for future reward, and possess key skills that help them adapt particularly well to their environments. They are the agents for policy change who possess the knowledge, power, tenacity, and luck to be able to exploit key opportunities. They draw on three strategies:

1. Don’t focus on bombarding policymakers with evidence.

Scientists focus on making more evidence to reduce uncertainty, but put people off with too much information. Entrepreneurs tell a good story, grab the audience’s interest, and the audience demands information.

Table 1

2. By the time people pay attention to a problem it’s too late to produce a solution.

So, you produce your solution then chase problems.

Table 2

3. When your environment changes, your strategy changes.

For example, in the US federal level, you’re in the sea, and you’re a surfer waiting for the big wave. In the smaller subnational level, on a low attention and low budget issue, you can be Poseidon moving the ‘streams’. In the US federal level, you need to ‘soften’ up solutions over a long time to generate support. In subnational or other countries, you have more opportunity to import and adapt ready-made solutions.

Table 3

It all adds up to one simple piece of advice – timing and luck matters when making a policy case – but policy entrepreneurs know how to influence timing and help create their own luck.

Click for the full paper

For more on ‘multiple streams’ see:

Paul Cairney and Michael Jones (2016) ‘Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Approach: What Is the Empirical Impact of this Universal Theory?’ Policy Studies Journal, 44, 1, 37-58 PDF (Annex to Cairney Jones 2016) (special issue of PSJ)

Paul Cairney and Nikos Zahariadis (2016) ‘Multiple streams analysis: A flexible metaphor presents an opportunity to operationalize agenda setting processes’ in Zahariadis, N. (eds) Handbook of Public Policy Agenda-Setting (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar) PDF see also

I use a space launch metaphor in the paper. If you prefer different images, have a look at 5 images of the policy process. If you prefer a watery metaphor (it’s your life, I suppose), click Policy Concepts in 1000 Words: Multiple Streams Analysis

11 Comments

Filed under agenda setting, Evidence Based Policymaking (EBPM), Folksy wisdom, public policy, Storytelling

11 responses to “Three habits of successful policy entrepreneurs

  1. Pingback: The role of evidence in UK policymaking after Brexit | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  2. Pingback: Policy in 500 Words: Multiple Streams Analysis and Policy Entrepreneurs | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  3. Pingback: The role of ‘standards for evidence’ in ‘evidence informed policymaking’ | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  4. Pingback: 5 images of the policy process | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  5. Pingback: The impact of multi-level policymaking on the UK energy system | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  6. Pingback: Practical Lessons from Policy Theories | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  7. Pingback: Evidence based policymaking: 7 key themes | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  8. Pingback: What is a policy entrepreneur? | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  9. Pingback: A 5-step strategy to ‘make evidence count’* | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

  10. Pingback: #EU4Facts: 3 take-home points from the JRC annual conference | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s