Agile Policy Making

Complexity Theory and Public Policyagile-policy-making

Dr. Graham Room, in his book Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy, argues that current policy analysis techniques cannot fully capture the dynamic processes between the actors in any given policy area especially when using only longitudinal data. He uses complexity theory to establish his agile policy-making toolkit, which is an eight-step, cyclical process:

  1. Map the landscape – understand the policy arena’s issues and current challenges.
  2. Identify the protagonists –know the players and stakeholders in the policy arena and their relationships to each other.
  3. Model the struggle – create multiple scenarios to understand how the policy landscape may evolve.
  4. Watch for tipping points – identify the triggers that could dramatically shift the structure into a new form.
  5. Tune the landscape – use analytical tools and discussions to move the policy arena into directions that are more productive.
  6. Energize the protagonists – help some of the protagonists build capacity and take other actions to encourage cooperative behavior toward win-win situations.
  7. Civilize the struggle – help create win-win situations and limit destructive behaviors by the protagonists.
  8. Watch for predators –keep one or more protagonists from unfairly tipping the balance of power and creating a destructive struggle in the landscape.

A vital concept, agile policy making is treating agencies as complex adaptive systems or as entities that anticipate and respond to their environments. That is why modeling the dynamics of internal agency processes and relationships between agencies is necessary to fully understand future policies.


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