A process guide to be used in training workshops and planning sessions. A printer friendly PDF can be downloaded from the box at the bottom of this page. The PDF includes companion resources about frameworks and case studies related to policy windows.
- Introduce the idea of ‘policy windows’ and ‘political opportunity structure’ and develop a shared understanding of these ideas
- Critically evaluate the political opportunity structure apparent in current campaign/s
- Practice applying an analytical tool that can be used to assess potential campaigns.
- 60 minutes
How it’s done
Step 1: Diagnosis [5-10 minutes; facilitator #1]
- Ask the group: “What do we know about political opportunity? What does this idea mean to you and your group? Do you use this language in your campaigning? To mean what?”
- By drawing on people’s reflections and experience, learn a little about how people use this expression.
- Introduce Kingdon’s idea of a policy window without referring specifically (yet) to the handout. Problems, proposals and politics are all necessary: there needs to be a soundly researched, articulated and understood problem, a credible and widely-‐supported solution and a political landscape that makes real change viable. Note that theories about ‘political opportunity structures’ are just one way to explore the policy process and the idea of a policy ‘window’.
- Establish some common ground; a shared definition (this can be quite loose for the moment).
Step 2: Introduce and model the checklist [10-15 minutes; facilitator #2]
- Distribute the two-‐page resources, including the checklist created by Barkhorn, Huttner and Blau.
- One of the facilitators should have a policy campaign ready to use to illustrate the framework – ideally a policy debate that ticks most of the boxes in this checklist. Walk people through the nine questions, modeling the process. Make this as participatory as possible.
- ALTERNATIVELY, ask a member of the group to nominate a policy debate (perhaps one that you expect many people in the room will be familiar with), and walk through the nine questions together. How does this policy debate stack up? Is there a significant policy window?
Step 3: Small group exercise [25 minutes; facilitator #2]
- Ask people to form small groups of 4-‐5. Make time for people to move and get comfortable on chairs or the floor. Explain that the next step will be to apply the framework to our own campaigns.
- Ask people to briefly introduce themselves (if that hasn’t happened already), then to (very) briefly describe a policy campaign they’re interested and/or involved in. What specific policy changes are you are trying to achieve with your campaign?
- Explain that each group needs to select one of these policies for the exercise; ideally one that most people know something about (the policy and the politics surrounding it). Once that’s been chosen, ensure the group is clear about what success would look like in the campaign. What is the desired policy outcome?
- Note: During the small group discussion, facilitators should circulate and check progress. In particular, check that folks are clear about what each question means. If it appears that any question/s need clarification for multiple groups, consider interrupting all groups to provide that clarification. Perhaps one of the groups is clear about the question’s meaning and can model its application for others.
Step 4 (optional): Small group discussion [15 minutes; facilitator #1]
- If you’ve identified a viable policy window and winnable campaign, how would you organise around the policy solution? (Questions 5, 6 and 7 were specifically focused on community organising.) How would you further open the policy window or opportunity by organising?
- Which allies would you prioritise working with?
- What ideas do you have about building a coalition?
- How would you go about mobilising community members? Who would be most likely to take action and what do you imagine them doing?
Step 5: Plenary discussion [15-20 minutes]
- How was that? What showed up?
- What did you learn about the political opportunities apparent in these policy campaigns?
- Who confirmed that there is a significant political opportunity? Tell us a bit about that.
- Who discovered that there is limited political opportunity to advance your policy solution at this time? Tell us a bit about that.
- What would it take to increase that opportunity or further open the policy window?
- Did the process highlight things we don’t know yet? Did you identify research needs or information gaps?
- How do you imagine you might apply this tool (in your campaign / in your organisation)?