How Policy Change Happens
If we want to support policy change in countries, a good place to start is by understanding how policymakers, technical experts, citizens and other stakeholders interact with and shape which policies countries pursue and actually implement. After all, it’s in understanding this process of policy change that we can tease out opportunities to support movement in the right direction and assess the feasibility of ideas that may look great on paper but perhaps play out less favorably in practice.
Donors have come up with dozens of approaches to assessing the commitment to and process of policy making. Applied Political Economy Analysis (PEA), for example, explores the interaction of political and economic processes in a society; the distribution of power and wealth between different groups and individuals; and the processes that create, sustain and transform these relationships over time. PEA can help identify reform champions and incentives and disincentives for reforms. The Political and Public Will (PPW) Toolkit, in turn, outlines how to build political and public will for social or public policy change in a way that also produces mutual accountability. It provides change agents with tools to help identify the key political and public stakeholders on a given issue, how these stakeholders view the problem and potential solutions, possibilities for aligning stakeholder views of problems and solutions, and how to produce meaningful mutual accountability among stakeholders around clear, shared goals.
One particular tool that Feed the Future has supported through the Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy is the Kaleidoscope Model, spearheaded by IFPRI. Building on extensive literature on political economy, public administration and policy processes, along with a series of original case studies on drivers of agricultural and nutrition policies in particular, the Kaleidoscope Model suggests that policy change can be understood along five different stages, each of which has particular variables associated with progress or not, as shown in the table below:
You may be wondering why IFPRI chose to call this framework the “Kaleidoscope Model.” Their answer:
Just as shifting a kaleidoscope refracts light on a new pattern, so does focusing on a particular stage of the policy process reveal a different constellation of key variables.
As we consider ways to support policy change, we’re likely to be more effective by keeping our eyes open to these possible constellations. More pragmatically: we’re more likely to be effective by understanding these different variables along the way.