Mapping policy and governance processes

The course introduces an innovative approach, grounded in social anthropology, that departs conceptually and methodologically from prevailing approaches to public policy. The course trains students to analyse and chart “wicked” problems—that is, most processes of policy and governance and complex collective issues, conflicts, or problems faced by humans. These processes and problems cannot be adequately understood or mapped through the cost-benefit analysis, survey research, quantitative methods, or modeling that dominate public policy schools. Abstract models with variables whose values and interactions are pre-specified are ill-equipped to capture these processes; unforeseen variables combine in unforeseen ways, often producing unforeseen consequences. 

“Mapping” provides an antidote. It is a real-world approach that begins by identifying the parties (players, social networks, organizations) to a problem or process. It then examines such factors as the parties’ assumptions and agendas, their interactions, the larger circumstances of power and resources in which they operate, the dynamics of power and influence, and how all these factors interact to shape outcomes. It involves such methods as interviewing in and around the parties, examination of relevant public and non-public documents, and, where possible, ethnography.

Instructor