Socially Insightful Policy Agendas and The Social Entrepreneur Effect
"Bringing democratic control to the conduct of foreign policy requires a struggle merely to force the issue onto the public agenda" said E.E Cummings in one of his works where he tried to shed some light on controversial political discussions and issues. Without any doubt, as an American author, E. E Cummings was aware of the importance that relies under having a healthy policy agenda. This importance by itself, is the starting point of the analytic framework that this paper will attempt to construct by emphasizing the dynamics of "socially insightful" policy agendas and combine it with the rising influence of social entrepreneurs on policy agendas. Top-down and bottom-up approaches(under the guidance of Princen and Rhinard) in policy agendas and will be examined in a comparative manner. In addition to these approaches, how social entrepreneurs affect or manipulate (directly/ indirectly) the policy agendas will be discussed with respect to some specific examples. However, before starting the in-depth analysis about the different approaches within policy agendas and how social entrepreneurs affect the flow of it, it would be wiser to re-define the vital elements in research question for the best interest of the eventual shape of analytical framework.
Social problems or issues, by their very nature, are hard to define accurately. There is no widely-accepted or clear-cut definition for social problems. Nevertheless, they can be defined with the relative mix of objective and subjective criteria that change across different societies and cultures. Although they may get various forms, as Mooney(2000) elaborates it, every social problem share two important elements; an objective social condition that refers to the existence of related concern and a subjective interpretation which represents the set of beliefs about the existing social condition. This unstable nature of social problems is the reason of why some social problems are considered in different levels from different countries and communities. For example, homosexual marriage can be considered as an issue for most of the countries; however, the issue(one might argue that it is not even an issue) will have a different importance and interpretation in Netherlands. The methods associated with discussing social problems and implementing related actions are dependent on certain institutions which facilitate in accordance with an agenda for most of the time. As we will elaborate further in details, the fate of social problems is heavily dependent on the dynamics of policy agendas, interaction between various agendas and the way social entrepreneurs frame them within their own contexts.
Policy agenda is a concoction of various topic and issues that attract special attention from inside and outside of any kind of institution at any given period of time. This definition illustrates the multi-dimensional nature of policy agendas in most apparent fashion. Policy agendas are the guides for the members of related institutions and plays a crucial role as an indicator of what the institution wants to achieve in short and long run. They are important for sense-making within these organizations and represents the whole functionality of an institution. Social problems are the items of these agendas and they are arranged according to certain priorities which are usually decided either by the leadership or the contributing individuals such as researchers, department members and scholars. Policy agenda might also get affected by other sets like media and public agendas. As the core of the definition, one should be able to understand that in order to get the support of related institution-can be considered as government in this case- its policy agenda should be the target in terms of generating collective problem-solving ideas.
In spite of theoretical simplicity behind targeting policy agendas, the practice of it is a challenging process. This is the reason why policy problems need certain kind of reframing that will allow the institution to focus on certain aspects of a more complex issue. Social entrepreneurs are the people who makes this framing activity in accordance with their purposes. Although the concept of social entrepreneurism is not very possible to fully define, there are several key factors that make social entrepreneurs unique. Waddock(1991) defines these factors and social entrepreneurs with these words; "Social entrepreneurs are private sector citizens who play critical roles in bringing about "catalytic changes" in the public sector agenda and the perception of certain social issues. Although not involved in direct actions to solve public problems, their work sets the stage and context for policy making and policy implementation activities."
As concerns related to millennium development goals and their achievability emerge, policy making institutions tries to chase cost-effective, innovative and sustainable policies. Catford(1997) refers to this need and improves the definition of social entrepreneurs to the extent of "a social entrepreneur needs to direct scarce resources towards activities with the highest potential gain". In a broader sense, policy-making institutions became aware of the fact that they need innovative ideas and reframed issues from "outside of the round-table". As it will be exemplified in following sections, this inclined the demand for social entrepreneurs. Thus, the influence of social entrepreneurs increased significantly due to this paradigm shift about agenda-designing processes and mobility of social problems throughout these agendas.
After re-defining the vital elements of the research question now it is possible to make a better analysis of transmittance of social issues within the policy agenda. Top-down and bottom-up approaches are the methods which applies following stages respectively; issue initiation, issue specification, issue expansion and issue entrance.
Two approaches differ firstly in terms of who takes the initiative to add that certain problem into the policy agenda. Top-down approach refers to the circumstances where the issue is brought to table by political leaders due to importance/ salience of an event. In a broader sense, because of the hierarchy in such institutions, people who hold the leadership positions have the required power to influence the task agenda of the organization and may use this power for the best interest of selected social problem. On the other hand, bottom up approach starts with triggering actions from research departments and lowly-valued members of institutions. They usually operate this approach with the motivation/reasoning that scientific/epistemic findings provide to them. This is the first differentiating point for our comparative analysis about "high" and "low" agenda paths where social problems somehow race with each other to be the priority.
- Quote paper
- Kaan Akkanat (Author), 2012, Socially Insightful Policy Agendas and The Social Entrepreneur Effect, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/292763