Policy & Politics sponsored an international symposium on Ambiguity and Crisis: Disasters, Governance and Social Risk in February 2016 convened by Editorial Advisory Board member Professor Nikolaos Zahariadis from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, US (pictured below) and Professor Tom Birkland from North Carolina State University, US. You can read more about it in their article below.
While ambiguity is a fact of public life, scholarship on its implications for public policy is not yet well developed. The gap is particularly deep during periods of crisis because of rapid and turbulent change and the lack of adequate information and limited information processing capacities. We have a good understanding of the strategic use of ambiguity but do not fully comprehend its implications for creating winners and losers in public policy.
On February 28, 2016, Tom Birkland and Nikolaos Zahariadis convened a two-day symposium on ambiguity and its effects during crises. The symposium explored the implications of ambiguity on policy making as conceptualized through the multiple streams approach (MSA) during man-made crises and natural disasters. The approach draws inspiration from March and Olsen’s garbage can model of organizational choice and John Kingdon’s agenda setting framework. MSA contends there is a “right” (and “wrong”) time to propose solutions to pressing public problems. The likelihood of any one idea becoming official government policy has as much to do with when it is proposed as it does with the political ideology of policy makers and the ability of entrepreneurial individuals to advocate, broker, persuade, or coerce others into accepting it. The overall aim of the symposium was to enrich and expand this literature, assess its value-added relative to other policy process approaches, and place the findings within the broader political environment.
Participants met for two days on the beautiful campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA to present papers and engage in discussions on how to move the agenda forward. They were been encouraged to use either or both quantitative and qualitative analytical techniques to examine topics at local and national levels in disaster and risk management and social policy. Papers will be submitted for consideration for publication in Policy & Politics in due course.
The convenors of the symposium were Prof. Tom Birkland, William T. Kretzer Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs and Associate Dean for Research and Engagement, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, North Carolina State University and Prof. Nikolaos Zahariadis, Professor of Political Science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The contributors presented the following papers:
• Kristin Taylor O’Donovan, Wayne State University, “Assessing the Effects of Event Rarity on Policy Change”
• Fritz Sager, University of Bern, “Fixing Federal Faults: Complementary Member State Policies in Swiss Health Care Policy”
• Megan Warnement, North Carolina State University, “Defining, Explaining and Testing the Role of Focusing Events in Policy Change”
• Rob DeLeo, Bentley University, “The Politics of Preparedness: Indicators, Agenda Setting, and the Governance of Emergent Hazards”
• Warren Eller and Thomas Bias, West Virginia University, “Making Eight or Hitting Dirt in Medicaid Expansion”
• Brian Gerber, Arizona State University, “Chronic Hazards and Crises: Using the MSA to Understand Local Government Administrators’ Entrepreneurship on Climate Change Innovation.”