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  • Writer's pictureClara Richards

Defining problems or providing solutions? The role of ideas in policy debates

In 2013, P&I published the paper Defining problems or providing solutions? The role of ideas in policy debates, by Andrea Ordoñez.

A common held believe is that the use of research can provide applicable and sound ideas for policies. But what are these ideas? How does research affect them?  This paper presents the cases of two new laws enacted in Ecuador to explore what ideas are, how they evolve and how they affect the policy process.  Based on three types of ideas – policy solutions, problem definitions and public philosophies (Mehta, 2010) – the cases exemplify the wide impact ideas have in the policy process. Unlike the common conception that research is useful in creating new policy solutions, the cases portray that research can have an even more critical role in defining problems and therefore shifting strategies on how to engage with stakeholders, who participates in the debates and what policy solutions are feasible. Policy solutions are highly contextual, and approaching them without a wider understating of the setting in which they evolve will likely be a fruitless endeavor.

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