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Raul Lejano, Mrill Ingram and Helen Ingram

Compelling stories are essential to policies, and as policies face challenges the stories change. This chapter discusses three distinct but intertwined themes: (i) policy as meta-narrative, (ii) policy as narration, and (iii) policy as narrative-networks. First, policymakers (and other actors) construct general stories that serve to capture and convey a policy initiative in a coherent, repeatable plot. But much of policy also emerges from the interpretive actions of street-level and other actors who actively narrate a policy into existence (possibly changing the script in the process). And, lastly, policy also takes the form of active communities, which we refer to as narrative-networks, which coalesce around a policy initiative and further its realization. These communities can challenge dominant policy narratives. We illustrate these ideas with the example of drug enforcement in the U.S., using contrasting narratives from the Reagan and Obama eras to dramatize the importance of narratives in the policy process.

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Charles W. Howe and Helen Ingram

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Helen Ingram and Anne L. Schneider

In this chapter we explore the social construction of target populations. Policies have a wide variety of pathways through which various problems might be addressed or purposes achieved. Policy makers often choose roundabout courses of action and select target groups whose actions are only loosely related to goals. Target groups are decided upon on the basis of various criteria, including importantly their power and the social construction of their deservedness. We offer a template for classifying target groups into four basic kinds: advantaged, disadvantaged, contenders and deviants, along with the policy tools and implementation structures usually directed towards each kind. The categories we suggest are a useful tool to critical policy scholars. A worthy aim of critical research is to unmask the ineffective, illogical and unfair policy treatment and undemocratic values embedded in policies in which citizens have unequal voices and are treated inequitably.

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Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram

Social constructions of the target populations of public policy heavily influence the process by which policies are created. In the case of policy formulation in particular, framing the target population has a profound impact on the selection of policy tools. The chapter argues that these social constructions impacting policy formulation become deeply embedded into policy-making orientations, explaining how some groups are more advantaged than others and how policy design can reinforce or change these biases.