Hogwood and Gunn's Framework for Policy Analysis Essay

Hogwood And Gunn S Framework For Policy Analysis Essay

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For the purpose of explaining Hogwood and Gunn´s Framework for Policy Analysis, the primary objective must be to gain at least a basic understanding of what policy analysis is and what it involves. Only once this is done can focus be directed towards the specifics of the framework in an attempt to appreciate the its purpose, who was designed to aid, and of what practical benefit it can actually be.

To take a first step on the path to understanding what is meant by policy analysis, it is useful to initially consider both elements, as defined within a standard dictionary:

Policy plan of action adopted by a person, group, or state.

Analysis separation of a whole into its components for study and interpretation

Collins English Dictionary (1994)

Doing this allows the formulation of a simple definition of policy analysis, in that it describes the separation of a plan of action adopted by a person, group, or state into its component parts for the purpose of study and interpretation. However, this definition goes little way to explaining what the component parts of such a plan of action may be, or of why there may exist a need to study and interpret them. Within the field of public policy, there is no universally accepted and concise definition of what exactly the business of analysis entails. For the purpose of advancing understanding in this area, Dye´s description of it as ‘finding out what government´s do, why they do it, and what difference it makes´ ;(Dye, 1976, page 1) is certainly another step forward, in that he introduces the notion of analysis as a process rather than an action. However, where this response does fail is in its absence of reference to the motivation for performing such analysis and of the value of doing so.

In the opening chapter to Policy Analysis for the Real World, Hogwood and Gunn commence by stating that ‘there is considerable room for disagreement about what constitutes policy analysis.´(p 3) Primarily, they identify two facets, descriptive analysis, concerned with ‘how policies are made´ ;and prescriptive analysis, dealing with ‘how policies should be made´, indicating that it is possible to take the distinction between the two too far, resulting in preference of one at the negative exclusion of the other. However, they do also go on to say that ‘if forced to indicate a priority… ;the defining characteristic of policy analysis… ;lies in its prescriptive aspect,´ ;and indeed, it is with this area with which their model is primarily concerned.

There are many models designed to aid the business of analysing and formulating policy and through Policy Analysis for the Real World, Hogwood and Gunn outline their own nine-stage framework for doing so. Drawing heavily upon the work of previous writers, they put forward this model for conducting policy analysis, as they believe is best suited to preparing, executing, and maintaining rational and fact based policies, which are likely to achieve their desired results. As already indicated, the authors believe that the primary value of policy analysis lies in logically driving the process of deciding what ought to be rather than simply determining what is. However, as subsequent examination of this framework will indicate, the model is heavily weighted towards the acquisition of empirical knowledge of what is, rather than normatively analysing what ought to be. The sense to this being that without proper knowledge and understanding of what is and has been, and of why, then the process of determining what should be, will be fundamentally flawed by a failure to take account of a wide variety of influential factors that may not be immediately apparent or currently active.

In order to relate the basic premise of Hogwood and Gunn´s framework, it is probably best to deal with the nine-stages of the policy analysis model sequentially as they are set out within the text.

1) Issue Search

Clearly, the business of policy making does not simply involve waiting for issues to present themselves as in need of action, and them acting upon them. If such a shortsighted approach were to be adopted, then the business of government would become hopelessly swamped by the need for extremely resource intensive and poorly thought out short-term remedial action and crisis management. Therefore, government´s, and other policy making bodies, must ‘scan´ ;their environment in an attempt to make out or foresee any areas that present an actual or potential opportunity or difficulty which may warrant action. As Hogwood and Gunn assert ‘the best time to start treating (or averting) a problem might well be before a crisis forced the issue onto the political agenda.´(p 69) Although they recognise that all public sector organisations do currently make use of both formal and informal techniques as a means of identifying issues that do not naturally present themselves at a stage when action would be best taken, their question is to whether or not currently employed methods are adequate in best setting out the policy agenda. They go on to make a case for a more active approach to the business of issue identification, highlighting it as a means of ensuring that issues affecting groups within society that normally have poor access to the political agenda gain equal consideration.
2) Issue Filtration

Once the business of searching the issue field has been performed, yielding a range of possible problems or opportunities that may require action, attention must then be turned to sifting through these to determine which are straightforward enough to be dealt with by ordinary procedural means and which appear to merit more advanced analysis and clarification. Hogwood and Gunn relate that such filtration will have to be conducted in accordance with certain qualifying criteria and through the course of the chapter devoted to this subject they sketch out their own register for deciding whether or not a particular issue is worthy of the organisations limited analytical capacity. Upon this checklist are questions of the complexity of the issue, how many different approaches may be available in tackling it, how much time and resources will analysis consume and are these available, and how relevant the issue is to the fundamental aims and objectives of the organisation.

3) Issue Definition

Following the actual identification of an issue and determining it to be of sufficient relevance and complexity to warrant further analysis and development, it will require some sort of ‘unpacking´ ;exercise to break it down into its constituent elements. This is done to provide further clarification and awareness of what it actually involves. To illustrate the need for comprehensive issue definition, Hogwood and Gunn make use of the following argument provided by Steiss and Daneke (1980, 124)

A plausible but incomplete definition of the problem can be more dangerous than a wrong definition. If the problem cannot be stated specifically, then the analysis has not been of sufficient depth. Even an excellent solution to an apparent problem will not work in practice if it is the solution to a problem that does not exist in fact.

Indeed, there appears to be no problem with accepting the reason within Steiss and Daneke´s proposition, but Hogwood and Gunn point to the likelihood that currently employed methods of problem definition may be inherently insufficient and overly politicised to produce an adequately defined basis around which to construct an acceptable and properly targeted policy response. Furthermore, they recognise that the complexity of actually defining the principal components of a given issue make full definition incredibly difficult in practice. Due to the need for value judgements, the introduction of personal and political opinion into an essentially rational process makes for conflict and issue clouding rather than clarification. That is not to say, in their minds, that issue definition is not a vital element of the policy process but that in approaching it, policy analysts must conscious of its significance and the problems it can present.

4) Forecasting

Although a potentially risky business, in that you can never fully predict how the environment in which a policy is implemented is going to receive it, forecasting of all potential outcomes and possible obstacles is nevertheless an integral part of the policy making process. Estimation of the future, based on sound knowledge of the present and past goes some way to furnishing policy makers with a model of a range of alternative futures and facilitates a methodological approach to identifying any hurdles that may crop up further down the line. As Hogwood and Gunn stress, the purpose of forecasting is not to produce definite predictions about what will be, but simply to assist decision-makers in making informed and balanced decisions. One problem associated with the need to forecast is that the exercise itself can be very expensive and time consuming, the question therefore arises of what to forecast, the analyst must be selective in determining what information they hope to gain and of what benefit they believe it will be of.

5) Objectives and Priorities

Hogwood and

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