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Drawing practical lessons from punctuated equilibrium theory

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Political organisations and policymakers contend with an ever-deepening sea of information regarding policy problems, constituent demands and solutions. Moreover, the problems confronted by modern governments are complex, multi-dimensional and boundary-spanning. This article leverages studies of national and subnational information processing and policy change to identify potential bottlenecks of information and patterns of policy feedback. We identify five lessons from this literature: two cautions and three suggestions. We caution that (1) centralisation does not solve problems of information search, instead, centralisation creates bottlenecks and (2) multiple venues offer more representation and opportunities for citizen influence, but suffer from attention limitations. Given these cautions, we suggest that (3) institutions be explicitly designed to be information-seeking, (4) issue bundling (grouping similar, interdependent issues together for the purpose of capturing attention) can prompt more holistic information searches, and (5) governments consider the correlation of information from subgovernments as policy information.
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Keywords: AGENDA SETTING; ATTENTION; INFORMATION PROCESSING; PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM THEORY; SUBGOVERNMENTS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Email: [email protected] 2: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 April 2018

This article was made available online on 16 April 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Drawing practical lessons from punctuated equilibrium theory".

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