Week 3: Broken glass? Jumping through policy windows and shifting Overton Windows

One of the big questions for those interested in policy is how and why significant change happens.  We discussed Kingdon’s view of policy windows and policy entrepreneurs and how such critical advocates can help opening windows and taking advantage of an open window.

The concept has gained some traction, but can these concepts be used more widely? Several colleagues from Cambridge have come up with some ‘tips’ on how environmental scientists might best engage with policy windows: (i) foresee (via horizon scanning and policy engagement); (ii) respond (understand policy environment and ‘headstarting’ to enable rapid reaction; (iii) frame (identify opportunity and frame astutely); and (iv) persevere (persevere with arguments and argue for incremental change).

A quite different type of ‘Window’ is the Overton Window, which describes the ranges of policy ideas or solutions that are considered ‘acceptable throughout society as legitimate policy options’ rather than being seen as fringe ideas  The political disruption we have seen in recent years in many countries (Trump, Brexit, Corbyn, Bolsinaro, Arab Spring, Extinction Rebellion, Green New Deal, etc) may be related to the ability of inspiring or unconventional politicians (Farage or AOC) shifting the national discourse or brilliant backroom strategists (Steve Bannon, Dominic Cummings, Seumas Milne) or a combination.

  1. Can you find a good example of a technology policy window opening and leading to significant change?
  2. Are policy entrepreneurs necessary? If so, can anyone do this with some helpful ‘tips’ and training or is there something special about successful policy entrepreneurs?
  3. How convincing do you find the concept of the Overton Window? Is there a particular reason why we may be seeing more such shifts in the Overton Window in recent years?