Research Strategy to understand the impacts and impact pathways of food, agricultural and nutrition policies in Feed the Future (FtF) countries

Project: Research project

Project Details


Specific study AIMS
Dealing effectively with complex social issues (i.e., issues affecting communities or societies) requires collective action and coordinated commitment and often entails short-term tradeoffs and sacrifices. These characteristics make change difficult, even when sustainable long-term solutions are win-win for most. Complex problems can be particularly difficult to address through policy due to the structure of public administration. Practitioners (i.e., public and nonprofit change agents) are often responsible for the demanding job of managing change efforts or implementing policies in the face of strong opposition. Though solid advice about the mechanics of practitioner-scholar working relationships is emerging (e.g., Buick et al. 2016), practitioners frequently lack guidance about when to work with scholars. Practitioners likely would benefit from guidance about when and how to engage different publics and from a common terminological interface for use with scholars. Public leaders like President Obama, via an executive order in September 2015, have begun calling for the more effective use of behavioral science insights in governance. This proposal represents an effort to help fill these existing needs for addressing complex social issues effectively.
This proposal combines the formal conceptual definitions of political will and public will to present the Political Will and Public Will (PPW) framework for analysis and action and explains how change agents can use this framework to manage change efforts. A change agent could be a practitioner, a policy entrepreneur or anyone else promoting or facilitating a change process. The PPW framework requires metrics that provides ideas about how to produce support or lessen opposition from different sectors. A federal-level public administrator in the U.S., for example, may need to appease change opponents in the national legislature, in state and local governments, or in key publics. Certainly, gauging political feasibility and working with potential opponents prior to the measurement phase is preferable, given the multitude of ways that implementation efforts can go off the rails. The PPW toolkit is an innovative way to address social issues that require large-scale change and policy creation or reform. One innovation here is the flexible integration of tools and ideas from the worlds of both practitioners and scholars. Another is a focus on how communication processes contribute to aligned problem and solution definitions across groups of political and public stakeholders. The framework also lays out a systematic, integrated, and evidence-based process for social change that allows for strong context dependence (i.e., places, issues, understandings). Further, the framework emphasizes the benefits for mutual accountability of identifying and involving stakeholders early and of utilizing tools that produce shared understandings and measures. Mutual accountability falls apart when stakeholders have different expectations and when they fail to see shared interests and interdependence. Finally, the framework integrates thinking about political will and public will in a way that recognizes the importance of both to social change efforts only possible with sensitive and specific measures and prognostic scores. The PPW framework for analysis and action provides change agents with an overview of how to answer a series of questions:
1. Who are the key political and public stakeholders in the issue area?
2. How do those stakeholders view the problem and potential solutions?
Effective start/end date1/1/179/30/18


  • Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey (PO#639288/6156//TA-CA-15-008-06)
  • Department of Agriculture (PO#639288/6156//TA-CA-15-008-06)


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