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Framing policy issues; components of policy narratives

   Note: Links are highlighted in dark orange.


  • Here is a relatively brief discussion from the Washington Post about the federal bureaucracy and the (unintentional) role it plays in stymieing progress on even the most straightforward challenges facing the country. The term used to describe the problem is "kludgeocracy" and some argue that the problem is getting worse. Kludgeocracy is great term to help frame the discussion around a frustrating problem.


  • Here is an interesting interview from April 2023 with Arnold Ventures’ executive vice president of evidence and evaluation, describing: 1) recent advances in research to support evidence-based policymaking; 2) some of the challenges researchers face in getting their findings to inform policy practice; and 3) why Arnold Ventures supports "null findings" in evaluation research.



  • A September 2022 op-ed in The Washington Post describes some of the problems that result when states keep "rolling out well-meaning but unproven [social] programs. . . Many programs, no matter how plausible-sounding or well-intentioned, simply don’t work — they don’t improve people’s lives — as we’ve seen too often when the results are measured." The author makes clear recommendations relating to testing the effectiveness of changes in social policy. Unfortunately, the commentators don't appear to have read and then thoughtfully considered the author's ideas and recommendations - a sign of how difficult it can be to establish a framework for evidence-based policymaking.


  • Here is an August 2022 op-ed I wrote for The Albuquerque Journal that provides an example of how data-based evidence derived from machine learning techniques can be used to improve child welfare outcomes. We shall see whether it might help to "frame the policy narrative."


  • Here is short blog post from February 2021, along with a link to the source articles, summarizing recent academic work on the role of experts in influencing the policy process, including framing policy narratives. As is often the case, this work comes from Europe, not the United States.


  • The following articles represent just a few examples of academic work in the area of framing issues and influencing policy narratives:


Crow, D. & Jones, M. (2018). Narratives as tools for influencing policy change. Policy & Politics, 46(2), 217-234.


Fafard, P. & Hoffman, S.J. (2020). Rethinking knowledge translation for public health policy. Evidence & Policy, 16(1), 165-185.




  • Legislative testimony: The internet offers many guides for testifying before a legislative body. This guide may be particularly helpful.

  • The Narrative Policy Framework: Here, U.K. Professor Paul Cairney explains how the framework "identifies the narrative strategies of actors seeking to exploit other actors’ cognitive biases" within a policymaking context. He further explains the importance of narratives in policymaking, noting how narratives "could make the difference between thought and action." In addition, he discusses the controversies  and implications of these ideas.




Here is an example of my work in framing policy-relevant issues, based on the experience of health care providers during the coronavirus pandemic:


First, I wrote a report, published on this website, that described the work of an acute care nurse practitioner (and research colleague) who volunteered to care for Covid-19 patients in a hard-hit New York City ICU during the early days of the first wave of the pandemic. The report may be downloaded here.


The colleague shared the report on social media, which led to his service being featured in several news outlets, including a digital short on the website for the television channel Oxygen and a news article in the San Francisco Chronicle.


Next, our colleague built on this foundation, using his experience and the related media coverage to write a commentary piece on the care of Covid-19 patients that was published in a professional journal in June 2021.

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