Computer-Supported Policy Analysis, Past and Future

In a recent draft paper (available here, and below), I’ve speculated that enterprise collaboration systems in government can serve to expand the notion of who in government can contribute to policy analysis; and that open data can expand the idea of policy analysis to those working outside of government.

Comments are welcome from any reader. Note that this draft is currently under review and is intended for: Parson, Edward A. (ed.). forthcoming. A Fine Balance: Expertise, Evidence and Democracy in Policy and Governance, 1960-2011. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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The Seven Stages of the PhD

(I don’t know who wrote this, nor where I got it. It would be nice to track down the originator(s), but Google is no help. But I think it’s worth sharing, just not with either those thinking about – or just starting – a doctoral program. This is literally, though not necessarily linearly, true. I used to mark where I was on any given day, kind of like a barometer.)

1. Fearful Excitement: Common reaction upon arrival and in initial courses. Excitement at learning opportunities and meeting new people, mixed with trepidation at the mountain of reading and a feeling that you don’t know what everyone else is talking about.

  • Lasts: Eight to sixteen months, depending on program
  • Phrase Most Heard: “Let’s go have a beer after class!”

2. The Impostor Syndrome: Normal feeling when approaching comprehensive exams. Great dread that the faculty will finally discover you don’t know anything. Total frustration at incomprehensibility of most scholarly writing.

  • Lasts: One frantic two-month study session
  • Phrase Most Thought: “Geez, I don’t have a clue about this stuff”

3. Intellectual Excitement: Euphoria at passing comps and beginning to tackle dissertation proposal.

  • Lasts: Two weeks
  • Phrase: “I’ll have a proposal by the end of the summer.”

4. I Should Have Gone to…: Undergraduate classmates graduate from law and business school and purchase BMWs. Dissertation proposal collapses in complete muddle. Spouse, friends and parents continually ask if done yet. You watch at least ten hours of TV a day.

  • Lasts: Six months to four years
  • Phrase: Repeating anything from “Community”

5. Professional Groove: First conference session goes smoothly. Chapters are returned without anyone noticing the huge holes in them. Business cards printed. Begin calling department head by first name.

  • Lasts: Six cocktail receptions
  • Phrase: “That’s similar to my own work, which looks at…”

6. The Abyss: Funding ends. All job applications rejected. Second-to-last chapter remains complete mess despite five drafts. You avoid the department. Total loss of faith in all ideological and moral value systems.

  • Lasts: Endurance of human spirit
  • Phrase: “I used to believe that.”

7. Defense and Aftermath: Defend body of work that you hate and despise. Buy first car. Panic on evenings and weekends when you realize you don’t have any work you could be doing.

  • Lasts: Lifetime
  • Phrase: “Gosh, we had fun in grad school.”

Final Official Version of Dissertation

My dissertation “Towards Policy Analysis 2.0” has been formally published on the University of Victoria DSpace.

The abstract and link to the full document pdf can be found at http://hdl.handle.net/1828/4437

Suggested citation:

Longo, Justin. 2013. Towards Policy Analysis 2.0. PhD dissertation, University of Victoria. Ann Arbor: ProQuest/UMI. (Publication No. AAT *******.)

Seminar Presentation – Friday September 14 2012

“Contemporary Practice in Policy Analysis in the British Columbia Government”
Frank, Friendly, Fearless Friday Seminar Series
University of Victoria – School of Public Administration
Friday September 14, 2012 – 2:30pm
Tom Shoyama Boardroom, HSD A373

Abstract: Policy-making is hard, and it can often be made harder still when the issue or environment is complex. Profound uncertainty, rapid emergence and multiple issue interconnectedness are some of the features of a complex policy environment that challenge public policy makers. One approach to dealing with complexity in a public policy context is horizontality, the act of working across the various ministries and divisions of a government in order to harness the organization’s capacity and resources and direct them towards the solving of the complex problem. And one prominent mechanism for meeting the horizontality challenge is the promotion of greater organization-wide collaboration, knowledge sharing and active knowledge seeking amongst a network of knowledge workers. The emergence of Web 2.0 tools and approaches has raised the possibility that we have entered a new knowledge management era – Enterprise 2.0 – that can address the horizontality problem, facilitate the sharing of knowledge across government and promote transformative governance. Based on semi-structured interviews with policy analysts as members of corporate policy units, and a web-survey of 129 practising policy analysts in the Government of British Columbia, this research is aimed at the question of how governments can deal with the challenge of policy complexity by supporting horizontal policy formulation, and what barriers might stand in the way of the sharing of knowledge and efforts by public servants to collaborate with colleagues. From the web-based survey and the interview data, it appears that attitudes (which measures what the respondents’ values and experience tell them is the right thing to do), followed by norms (measured as what respondents hear from their colleagues and superiors as being important) were the strongest and most consistent predictors of the intention to collaborate and share knowledge. A third measure – perceived behavioural control – was weakest, indicating that while policy analysts may believe and be told that knowledge sharing and collaboration are the optimal path, they may not feel they have the authority or latitude to do so. It also appears that a policy analyst’s organizational social network is instrumental in being able to locate knowledge sources and collaboration opportunities outside of their immediate location. But there was little evidence that technology networks to date play a prominent role in facilitating a knowledge organization; in fact, the data indicate that policy analysts may refrain from sharing knowledge with colleagues using technology networks in order to avoid contributing to their colleagues’ information overload. The significance of the present findings lies in the implications for public sector organizations to provide support for knowledge workers to make effective use of the social network, technology and organizational capacity to jointly solve problems. The results point towards strategies for organizational leaders to promote and support a knowledge organization, and towards tools for policy unit managers and individual policy analysts to navigate the challenge of responding to complex policy issues in a world of too much information and not enough knowledge. Caution is advised that attempts to impose knowledge management technology solutions may face significant barriers where the organizational culture is not aligned with open knowledge sharing and collaboration. The potential power of organizational social networks to bridge between the organization’s various sub-cultures is one possible path for helping to build the knowledge organization.

By Justin Longo Posted in Papers

Policy Network Perspective Case Study – BC Water Act Modernization Process

Taking the policy network perspective, the focus shifts to a specific horizontal policy issue case where the BC government has attempted to develop a policy response to a complex issue which cuts across a number of ministries and departmental responsibilities – the British Columbia Water Act Modernization (WAM) Process. By looking at this specific case, the research objective is the development of an understanding of how Gov2.0 technologies can support efforts at knowledge-sharing and collaboration-building across internal-to-government policy networks that are created for the purpose of coordinating the input of multiple agencies aimed at addressing a complex horizontal policy challenge.

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Ethics Application Form

In its entirety, my approved “Application for Ethics Approval for Human Participant Research” for the University of Victoria Human Research Ethics Board (updated June 13 2012 with extension).

If you are embarking on this process, good luck and I hope this is of some help.

Complete UVic HREB Application

Digital Fishers Website Launched

This is a project I’ve been involved with for the past couple of years through my company. If you’ve got 15 seconds to spare, we’re looking for a few hundred thousand volunteers to help analyze deep-sea videos—15 seconds at a time. You’re invited to participate in ocean science research (no experience required!). By playing Digital Fishers you’ll help researchers gather data from video, and unveil the mechanisms shaping the animal communities inhabiting the deep.

Developed by NEPTUNE Canada with the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies (CfGS) and funded by CANARIE. Co-investigator Dr. Rod Dobell leads the involvement of CfGS with additional support from eBriefings.ca.

Play Digital Fishers Now

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