#POLU9PP Understanding Public Policy

The course helps you investigate the dynamics of public policy. We ask, in seminars: what is policy, who makes it, why, and what are the effects? The literature on this topic is vast, and there is a lot of jargon to wade through. There are also some useful and fascinating concepts and theories that will help vastly improve your analytical skills if you take the time to understand them completely.

To that end, I offer you a 6-step programme to get there:

(1) read my blog post

(2) listen to my podcast

(3) read the relevant chapter in my book

(4) read the original literature to which I refer

(5) come to the seminars prepared to talk about them and share your understanding with me and your peers

(6) produce your own theoretically-informed case study, in which you combine a policy options paper with your reflections on your recommendations, and a blog post in which you try to convince a wide audience about the need to solve the problem you raise.

(7) It’s 7-steps if you include the exam.

You can find the full list of blog posts and podcasts here – https://paulcairney.wordpress.com/1000-words/ – and read this one first for some background 12 things to know about studying public policy

We discuss the nature of policy, power and the role of ideas. We explore theories on institutions, rational choice, policy networks, agenda setting and governance and compare them with descriptions of policy cycles and the ‘rational actor’. We focus on some of the theories that I find most fascinating: multiple streams analysis, punctuated equilibrium, advocacy coalition framework, social construction of target populations, and complexity. We also apply concepts and theories to live issues, such as the extent to which governments engage in ‘evidence based policymaking’. These concepts will help you think of the right questions to ask, and explanations to seek, but it is up to you to:

  1. Bring your own empirical case study analysis to help you make sense of policy and policymaking.
  2. Explain this stuff quickly and concisely to me and your peers. Imagine a policymaking world in which people are too busy to pay attention to you unless you make them pay attention, with: an eye-grabbing blog post title, one simple message, and a presentation that you can deliver in less than 5 minutes and 1000 words.

The course guide is here: POLU9PP handout Spring 16

Blog topics and seminar dates (with podcasts to follow …)

Joint session on ‘Evidence Based Policymaking’ (see EBPM resources) with Peter Matthews’ course in Lecture Theatre W1 from 9-11 5th February:

‘Evidence-based Policymaking’ and the Study of Public Policy

 Reading Week

Networks, sub-government and communities, Punctuated Equilibrium Theory, and The Advocacy Coalition Framework 4th March

Easter Friday (coursework due the day before)

Your presentations 1st April

Your presentations 8th April

Your exam: TBC

In the olden days, I would sell this course as a bit like Karate Kid.

I’m getting you to learn many concepts, one after the other, and it is not obvious (until near the end of the course) how they all fit together into a satisfactory whole explanation (from 90 seconds):