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Policy instrument affordances: a framework for analysis

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The present study uses the concept of technological efficacy derived from ecological psychology and design studies to offer an alternative way of analyzing how policy instruments affect change. Reasoning from this, the paper outlines a framework for analyzing policy instruments in terms of their affordances. We define affordances as the means through which an instrument exerts influence on its intended target audience. Using this approach, we contend that policy instruments may be analyzed as interfaces that organize social relations and create structures of opportunity and/or restrict possibilities for action. We argue that explicating the pathways through which instruments afford or constrain action is a central task for policy analysis. Our proposed framework of analysis builds on the idea that instruments yield effects by facilitating action and learning. We further contend that the actions that an instrument can facilitate or inhibit are determined by specific affordance modalities of the instrument in conjunction with contingencies of the actor and the policy environment. Examples from research policy are used to illustrate some of these effects.
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Keywords: Policy instruments; affordances; policy analysis; policy design; policy process

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Strategy and Research Policy Group, Department of Business Administration, Lunds University, Lund, Sweden

Publication date: November 2, 2017

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