Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing
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Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing

Edited by H. K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe

This Handbook covers the accounts, by practitioners and observers, of the ways in which policy is formed around problems, how these problems are recognized and understood, and how diverse participants come to be involved in addressing them. H.K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe draw together a range of original contributions from experts in the field to illuminate the ways in which policies are formed and how they shape the process of governing.
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Chapter 14: Multiple streams

Alison Ritter and Kari Lancaster


In this chapter we explore Kingdon’s multiple streams heuristic, and examine how it has been taken up and used in policy studies. The critical question for policy analysis in Kingdon’s heuristic is not how given problems are selected and addressed through authoritative decision making, but rather the nature of the linkages between three continually flowing and largely independent streams: problems, policies and politics. We observe with interest the extent to which the multiple streams approach has stood the test of time, with its broad applicability across place and topic. Unlike other theories of the policy process, the heuristic put forward by Kingdon provides the tools for analysing a process which is complex, ambiguous and somewhat serendipitous. It includes both structural (windows) and interpersonal (policy entrepreneurs) considerations in the policy process overlaid on the three streams. Kingdon’s heuristic has been applied by scholars coming from various ontological and epistemological standpoints, but we argue that it is perhaps best understood as a constructionist approach.

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