Theorizing the role of power in policy change within the Advocacy Coalition Framework through the Deep Dredge project in Biscayne Bay, Florida
Tuijn, S.A. van
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The Advocacy Coalition Framework of Sabatier, Weible, and Jenkins-Smith is a highly recognized and utilized framework in the analysis of the policy process, originally developed in the 1980s to deal with various shortcomings in contemporary theories. It places its main emphasis on explaining policy change. Despite its extensive utilization and applicability across political systems, geographical areas, and policy topics, some scholars feel that the framework-defined paths that lead to policy change (external shocks, policy-oriented learning, internal events, negotiated agreements) are not fully developed and are missing causal processes that actually link them to change. The concepts of resources, strategies, and power are likewise underdeveloped, and although power itself is highly controversial in the social sciences, the existing literature suggests a relation between these concepts, and which could contribute to a better explanation of policy change within ACF. Objective. The objective of this research is to contribute to the continuing refinement of the Advocacy Coalition Framework of Sabatier, Weible, and Jenkins-Smith by elaborating on the causal processes within policy change through the conceptualization and operationalization of the concept of power. This is done by creating a framework for the concept of power and applying it to a single case study in order to test and refine its utility. The framework is primarily derived from work by Sewell (2005), Avelino and Rotmans (2009, 2011), and Sabatier and Weible (2007), and elaborates a typology of resources as sources of power, strategies as a condition of power, and explores power types, dynamics, and relations amongst competing coalitions. Method. The paper applies the framework to a single case study of policy change regarding Biscayne Bay management in Miami, Florida, especially as it relates to a recent project to dredge the Miami Harbor so that it can accommodate Super Post-Panamax ships, a case that shows a high-fit with ACF, and which would be interesting from a power perspective. The case study method is chosen because it allows for intense and in-depth data generation appropriate for testing and refining the power framework. Interviews, document analysis, and survey are used to collect data, create a timeline of events, and identify coalition resources, strategies, and thereby power. Policy change is examined as the dependent variable and power, operationalized through framework elements, is the independent variable. Results. The results find that the case study can be examined from an ACF perspective, with several events/coalition strategies falling into the four paths of policy change as defined in the framework. Using ACF in its current status, however, fails to connect these paths to the actually policy change. For example, the external shock of regime change at the state level, identified as a condition for policy change in ACF, cannot be directly linked to policy change in Biscayne Bay management. However, examining these events/strategies more closely from a power perspective identifies the intervening causal processes that link the events/strategies to policy change, and gives better explanatory capacity to ACF. Taking these results into consideration, a better inclusion of the concept of power within advocacy coalition framework can contribute to the continuing refinement and explanatory capacity of the theory. Conclusion and discussion. The power framework developed for this research conceptualized and operationalized power in a way that it could better be applied to a theory of policy process, and further refined the paths of policy change within ACF. It allowed the researcher to continue to develop the concepts of resources, strategies, and power within the existing framework and better connect them to each other. A critical inclusion of power in ACF can allow the framework to go beyond a superficial examination of policy change, addressing a primary complaint of ACF scholars, and allow researchers utilizing the framework to identify the causal processes that lead to policy change. A main concern encountered during the research was a bias of the interviews and survey since all respondents came from one coalition. Despite the overall success of the power framework in this case study, it can be refined through additional application, especially focusing on the operationalization of resources for consistency and better comparability.