Kingdon’s Multiple Streams

Kingdon’s Multiple Streams

Kingdon’s Multiple Streams (MS) was proposed by John Kingdon. It was “…viewed as a component of a broader literature on “ideas how ideas become solutions to policy problems..” (Cairney & Jones, 2015). It was initially introduced to analyse and examine the agenda process and the policy making in the United States of America. Eventually, MS was applied globally. MS was used in the Bamako Initiative (BI), a health policy implemented in Burkina Faso. BI was a reform that came about from failure of the Alma-Ata in 1978 to ensure equity health care for the poor in Africa. BI was only concerned about the efficiency of the healthcare being delivered which fails to provide an equity healthcare system to the poor. MS has their drawbacks within their streams. The problem stream has criticisms in relation to defining the problem; people have different perceptions of the problem which would alter how the problem is perceived. The political stream also has concerns due to its dependency on the country’s political situation but also, how the national mood is observed and interest groups react. However, the window of opportunity was seized to raise awareness and promote events that had the potential to give attention to the policy itself. The limitations of the policy would overcome if the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) were applied.
Kingdon’s MS model is a study that consisted of three independent streams: the political stream, policy stream and problem stream. Coupling of two or all streams, occurs in the window of opportunity. It was initially used to assess the “…agenda processes within the fragmented US political system…” (Beland & Howlett, 2016). Kingdon describes the model as “universal” because policy-making issue can arise at any time. There are elements for an issue to be “universal” that can be applied to any case: “…ambiguity, competition for attention, imperfect selection process, actors have limited time and decision-making process are neither “comprehensively rational” nor linear…” (Carney & Jones 2015) . The problem stream is when a problem has become apparent through events such as focus event that is seen as “public” and requires government attention to take action. The policy stream occurs when there is a solution to the problem. Policy entrepreneurs such as research institutions can help to examine the problem and give solutions to formulate an effective policy from the ideas that have been floating around. The political stream comprises of politicians to create “…swings in national mood, executive or legislative turnovers and interest group advocacy campaigns…” (Beland & Howlett, 2016). The window of opportunity occurs when streams are coupled when there is an event that enables initiatives to change policy such as focusing events or policy entrepreneurs’ presence or absence. It is usually transitory and gives attention to the problem once again on to the policy agenda.
The problem stream appears when the problem is seen as “public” and requires government action. Policy-makers discover the severity of the problem and the conditions surrounding the predicament are defined as a problem. Which results the problem on top of the agenda list. However, the BI was not perceived as a public problem because the indigent did not outcry the problem in the first place due to their lack of voice or not able to approach a someone with power. It was argued by Ridde (2008) that the stakeholders didn’t believe that BI was more of a societal sphere between the humanitarian organisations and the government rather than a problem that the public has expressed concern. Thus, as a result, most African states have to deal with health policy fail because it “…simply failed to recognise and tackle the specific needs of the poorest…” (Ridde cited in Gilson et al., 2008). Without a voice from those who are affected or experiencing it first-hand it’s difficult for institutions or the government to determine on the public’s behalf, whether it’s a problem and needs to be solved.
People’s perception of the problem can influence how the problem is defined. The BI was perceived as a problem for institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) that recognised that there needs to be more equity in health care for the indigent but the indigent did not recognise it as a problem. Other policies in different nations had the same problem. In Australia, the policy on the methamphetamine epidemic saw that over time the definition of the methamphetamine problem had two competing definitions. Which Kingdon reiterates that when a problem arises the government should do something to alter it. This demonstrates that the problem can be highly contested and changed over time. Thus, it’s difficult to have an universal definition of the problem if everyone has different perceptions. However, how could a government take action on a problem if one group views it as a problem that requires urgent attention and the other group sees it as a problem that will pass. Such as the gun laws in America where there has been numerous of shooting however, one group supports banning in guns while the other still thinks that the second amendment shouldn’t change.
Political parties and their electorate can determine if a problem should be put on the agenda. Since political parties only seek to achieve mandate in the next election or wanting to retain office. Politicians depend on voters’ preferences to decide if the problem should be addressed in Parliament. Most of the problem addressed in voters’ preferences are mostly “…influenced by “the cultural characterisations…” (Ackrill 2010). The problem definition can be manipulated depending on the political party which is influenced by their electorate. It enables how responsive the government should be. Which is unacceptable because one electorate cannot determine on behalf the country if the problem is perceived as a problem.
However, in most cases, the problem is recognised such as the transport policy on urban transportation planning in Curitiba, Brazil. The problem was successfully identified because of the growing population and economy. As a consequence, there has been an increase in automobiles and demand for public transport. The government recognised that this was a problem since their growth kept growing since the 1880s. Thus, the government had to prioritise on their agenda to focus on public transport, bus routes, innovating transport and to create a master plan.
Therefore, there have been difficulties in defining the problem in the problem stream because the public does not perceive it as a problem or due to the voters’ preference to decide if the problem should be put on the agenda.

The political stream mainly consists of official actors that have the mandate to implement policies depending on the national mood. BI was decentralised to the implementation of the policy at a local level. Also, organisations have had an impact on policymaking. While constructing BI, African health minister as well as international organisations such as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO made a significant impact in creating the policy. If a ‘national mood’ is present then official actors would implement a policy however; the national mood was never expressed. Thus, it wasn’t seen as an issue towards the government. Nevertheless, health policies in Africa were similar, in the sense that “…reforms in health funding in developing countries have been taken over by ‘transnational managerial class’…” (Ridde cited in Lee & Goodman, 2002). The transnational managerial class which would be more visible in the policy window. Kingdon explains policy entrepreneurs give “…gateways for advocates and experts to match solutions to problems by pushing the enactment of proposals…” (Lancaster, et al. cited in Kindgon, 2003).
Especially with the emergence of globalisation non-state actors such as institutions and multi-national firms have become influential in the policy-making in the political stream. Argued by Robinson and Eller (Lancaster, et al cited in Robinson and Eller, 2010) that once a participant engages in one stream then the likelihood of another participant to engage in another stream is high. It questions where the distinction between policy entrepreneurs and official actors lie; when policy entrepreneurs have become heavily involved in the political stream.
The media has involved in creating the national mood due to reporting on the severity of the issue and interest groups voicing out. BI media coverage in the newspaper was low with only 1 percent. It shows that the media who are considered as a watchdog in keeping the government and their policies accountable did not seem to show that BI was not a problem. Kingdon’s opinions of the media underestimate how influential they can be when it comes to policy making and agenda setting. He argues that the media has a “…’less than-anticipated effect’ on policy, as the policy community generally rides ‘serenely above the media storm..” (Lancaster, K., et al cited in Kindgon, 2003). In the case of the ice epidemic, it was not true. The media was able to influence policymakers and the wider community on their definition of the ice epidemic problem. Which was able to influence in creating the national mood, many activists and the general public was able to voice their opinion towards the problem and thus, creating the Strategy.
Although, Kindgon states that the political stream consists of political actors, however, the “…’government’ as a powerful authoritative decision-making figure is decentralised…” (Lancaster, et al., 2014). This shows how influential policy entrepreneurs and non-state actors despite being considered in the policy window can create the national mood, implement and create policy.

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The window of opportunity allows diverse actors to engage with the problem to enable engagement of the issue that is problematic or needs to be raised. It allows coupling to take place from the independent streams when official personnel or institution have identified the problem and addressed the issue. The BI’s window of opportunity, was seized by the President during political events where he discussed and “…promoted the ideals of equity and justice in the society of Burkina Faso…” (Riddie, 2009). Also, the window was seized during events. Health ministers were alerted to different events of the health system about the problems of inequity access to the healthcare system. It notified officials to examine the problem.
The window of opportunity was also seized such as the smart electricity metering in Australia. Council of Australian Government (COAG) Energy Council and international actors acted as the policy entrepreneur. As it allowed new solutions and innovation from transnational policy communities that had similar metering policy. It had influenced on COAG’s decision on making a policy change because of the range of solutions and ideas that they can apply in their policy. The sugar reforms in the European Union in 2005 allowed the window of opportunity to be seized through reviews of the policy over time which allowed any adjustments to the reform. Thus, it was a key strength to the MS model: “…its acknowledgement that the policy formation is by nature ‘not always a “rational” process’ of authoritative problem solving but rather an ongoing, contested process of managing the problematic…” (Lancaster, et al. cited in Monaghan 2011).
According to Ridde (2008) the window of opportunity was exploited over the 15 years since its implementation; however, it was not able to promote equity. A few reasons for their failure were due to local authorities unable to interpret the policy because equity was not explicitly pointed out and social actors sensed that they were not able to take action and thus unable to seize the opportunity. The window of opportunity is also problematic because they are short windows that allow policy entrepreneurs and political actors to seize the opportunity to change the policy when another problem is addressed and a solution is required. Which is difficult because of the amount of research and examination that needs to take place. Also, the uncertainty of the window opening makes it hard for policy entrepreneurs and the government to act quick.
Primarily, when a focusing event is present, it attracts the problem stream to redefine the problem. For example, after the 9/11terror attacks in the United States of America which saw the Bush administration to act rapidly to carry out Anti-Terrorism laws in the United States which became a domino effect worldwide. Eventually, nearly every state has implemented or updated their Anti-Terrorism Laws. Thus, it also opens in the political stream for legislators as a high priority to rapidly implement and reforms laws to prevent a likely event similar to the focusing event from happening again.
The window of opportunity can be sized as it allowed opportunities for reforms when a focusing event occurs. It allows policy entrepreneurs to give better solutions, policy reforms and re-defining the problem. However, the window of opportunity is short-lived and political actors are required to act quickly to solve the issue.

The BI would better be utilized in an ACF. ACF was proposed by Paul Sabatier and Hank Jenkin-Smith. It usually consists two to four interest groups that meet to solve an issue. They have well-established values and beliefs. They participate in political debates on policies and the competition between the politician and the coalition through a policy broker. They are “…influence by the ‘relatively stable’ system and ‘dynamic (system) events…’ (Birkland 2016). This includes socioeconomic problems, distribution of resources in society and change in public opinion. Thus, interest groups influence the implementation of policies. This makes WHO and UNICEF as the key advocacy coalitions in this policy as they have the set of values – equity – and interest – providing health care to the indigent.
In the MS model, they recognized that WHO and UNICEF were one of the main political actors in creating the BI. However, according to Kingdon, they are considered as policy entrepreneurs. It’s interesting to note that other authors have noticed that Advocacy Coalitions have been involved in either opposing to or in favour of policies in the health sector. It is beneficial because they can provide ideas and to help implement policies. Thus, developing nations especially, in Africa rely on these Advocacy Coalitions for the creation of health policies. Since, these Advocacy Coalitions have already examined, research and analysed the best solution for the problem. Therefore, politicians and political parties who only recently gained interdependence would be willing to accept their expert advice because they are better informed, have examined the issue and have better knowledge. Especially, in the health sector, there has been unattainable goals in these developing countries of eradicating inequity or inequality of health care for the poor. The politicians would be willing to accept their help.
With the Advocacy Coalition’s help, they can create systematic analysis approaches to solving the problem. They would have assessed the initial conditions of the problem which gives them policy information to refer back to. Which they can analyse with society’s perception of the problem, those who are affected but also other interest groups that could be required to create a policy. ACF was implemented in the banning of smoking shisha in public areas in a province in Iran. The advocacy group informs the public about the health side-effects of shisha, to promote that shisha is not good for their health and giving viable solutions. Without the exploitation of the advocacy group to create a national mood, the government wouldn’t have examined the health effects of smoking shisha which imposes a policy ban on shisha in public areas.
Thus, ACF would be utilised more efficiently in the BI where WHO and UNICEF are both involved in the policy-making that gives scientific evidence, solutions and implementing the policy. While at the same time the government accepts their expert opinion.

Kingdon’s MS has been utilised in the BI. Despite the fact that the model has its drawbacks such as the problem and political streams, however, it was successful in the window of opportunity. The problem stream had complications because of defining the problem, people and politician’s perceptions and the problem can be highly contested and changed over time. In the BI case, it wasn’t perceived as a national problem because indigent did not voice out their concern, instead WHO recognised it as a problem. The ice epidemic problem was similar in Australia’s case, where the definition of the problem has different perceptions; where the politicians would perceive it as a problem as long as it gets them re-elected which determines responsiveness to take measures. It will be useful if both the government and the general public recognise it as a problem as it did in Brazil with their transport policy. The political stream was contentious because WHO and UNICEF acted as the political actors in this stream in conjunction with the government in the BI. It undermines Kingdon’s separation between the official actors and policy entrepreneurs. Also, with the rise of media and non-state actors have influenced the public and thus creating a national mood. With all the criticism of the political and problem stream, the window of opportunity allowed opportunities for reforms in policy when a focusing event occurs such as the gun laws after the Port Arthur mass shooting in 1996. It will enable policy entrepreneurs as well as politicians to examine and give better solutions. It also gave them the freedom to change the definition of the problem and reforms. However, the window of opportunity is temporary and political actors are required to take measures quickly to solve the issue. The ACF would be better utilised in the case of the BI. WHO and UNICEF who are considered as policy entrepreneurs in the MS model it makes sense that the ACF works in favour for both the policy entrepreneurs and official actors. As, the policy entrepreneurs would be able to examine, research and give viable solutions to the government. The government is willing to accept the policy entrepreneur’s expertise to impose a policy that would bring success. In conclusion, MS model has its positives and negatives, but at the end it depends on the government on how they perceive the problem, propose a viable policy and able to utilise the window of opportunity successfully.


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