Networks and problem recognition: advancing the Multiple Streams Approach

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This paper responds to recent calls for more theoretically driven advancements of the Multiple Streams Approach (MSA). It does so by bringing networks theorizing into dialogue with the MSA; highlighting the inclusionary and exclusionary power of networks for determining problem frames and issue recognition. Subsequently, the paper argues that the addition of networks provides a clearer articulation of the role of institutions in steering problem stream processes, which have often been neglected within the MSA at the expense of a focus on agency. The paper puts forward two propositions. The first is that an issue is more likely to be recognised as a problem if it is considered compatible with the ‘appreciative system’ of the network's dominant coalition. The second proposition is that the more organisations a network consists of and the more varied these organisations are, the more likely it is that the dominant coalition alters a condition’s category if there are changes in the problem stream. These propositions are explored through a comparative analysis of recognition of quality of life as a problem in two local level transport sector networks in the UK. Support for these propositions in the findings suggest that the introduction of networks into the MSA can reduce ambiguity and therefore fortuity in relation to problem recognition; second, that the power of the policy entrepreneur can be facilitated or constrained by the institutional context; and third, that comparing multiple issues and their interactions is important for further advancement of the MSA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPolicy Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018


  • multiple streams approach
  • policy networks
  • problem recognition
  • framing


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