What do policy analysts in government do (besides the cheeky definition above offered by Arnold Meltsner [1976: vii])? And more to the point, what do practicing policy analysts think they do, and what do they think they should be doing?
In my recent dissertation research, I came at this question by asking practicing policy analysts to rank-order five policy analysts archetypes – connector, entrepreneur, listener, synthesizer, technician. These archetypes, and their descriptions, were derived from earlier work by Durning and Osuna (1994), Meltsner (1976) and Morçöl (2001).
The ‘synthesizer’ archetype is ranked consistently high as describing the role and orientation of policy analysts, followed closely by ‘connector’ and ‘entrepreneur’, with ‘listener’ and ‘technician’ rounding out the rankings. For more information on that research and to see the results, a working paper is available at http://www.whitehallpolicy.ca/mitacs/?p=338.
“All Our Ideas” is a research project that takes a hybrid approach to gauging attitudes and opinions that combines the quantifiability of a survey and the openness of interviews. As of February 2012, about 1,500 surveys have been created.
As an experiment in using the “All Our Ideas” approach, and to further look at how policy analyst professionals think about their work, an “All Our Ideas” survey has been created at http://www.allourideas.org/policyanalyst
Each refresh of the page will present you with two alternative definitions (out of a total of 18) of what a policy analyst does, and you’ll be asked to pick one. If you can’t decide, that’s an option too. And you can also add your own definition.
Thanks for playing. The results from this experiment will be posted here.