QPAM: Problem Definition

Before a policy analysis can be performed, the underlying problem needs to be defined. Any problem definition is a function of what the author of the definition cares about and what they assume in terms of necessary relationships. Bardach suggested to be clear about what you care about and what you assume about the fact (Bardach, 2012). He claims that problems are caused by market failures, inequalities and non-efficient government solutions.

Value conflict resolution

An alternative approach to think about is a two-dimensional problem space that is defined by the involvement of money and social consensus (legislation could be passed and the law will remain long-term). The solution to a problem defined in this space would fall into the following categories

  • Private (companies): if no social consensus is there, but money can be made
  • Non-Profit (organisations): if no social consesus is there, but no money can be made
  • Public (government): if a social consensus is there, but no money can be made
  • Ambivalent (companies/government/organisations): if a social consensus is there and money can be made


Bardach, E. (2012). A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.