Bardach’s A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis (Fourth Edition, 2012) is an introductory work into policy analysis proposing an 8-step approach to policy analysis termed The Eightfold Path. It is directed at Master’s students with basic knowledge of economy.
Bardach focuses on the changes in policy analysis from a formal report to an interactive undertaking accompanying the process. The change is similar to changes in Software Engineering where the (static) Waterfall-Model has given way to the (dynamic/interactive) Agile Development paradigm.
The Eightfold Path – Overview
The Eightfold Path can be seen as a guideline to inexperienced policy analysts that struggle with balancing personal bias with organisational interests/biases. A quick overview (as listed in the book) is provided below:
- Define the Problem
- Assemble Some Evidence
- Construct the Alternatives
- Select the Criteria
- Project the Outcomes
- Confront the Trade-Offs
- Tell your story
The order as is not fixed as prescribed in the aforementioned list, but a rough guide. The problem-solving process has a circular logic to it meaning that several iterations may occur in a “trial and error” style similar to modern product/software development. The guidelines are tailored to practical situations but should be understood as conceptual and some parts of those guidelines may already be predefined by circumstances.
From the onset the book tries to foster efficiency as well as “correctness” (according the the defined/required standards of the problem). The details of the Eightfold Path will be discussed in future posts. In this overview (coinciding with the introduction of the book and summarising it) we will lastly look at the proposed resulting report of a policy analysis:
- A coherent description of the problem
- Several solutions
- Projected outcomes for the application of any solution including path of reasoning
- Trade-off analysis if no solutions can be clearly favoured
- Recommendation of required
As a practical guide the book should be read in conjunction with in-depth literature for policy analysis (listed in Bardach’s order):
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