This blog post is based on a research article recently published in the Policy & Politics journal titled “Analysing the stability of advocacy coalitions and policy frames in Ghana’s oil and gas governance.”
The article begins on the premise that there are several ways for people to engage in governance. One way is for people to join an association. The other way is to engage in policy debates.
Academics study people engaged in policy debates using a theory called the ‘Advocacy Coalition Framework’. According to the theory, people (often called ‘policy actors’) with shared beliefs form groups to influence policy. These beliefs are like people’s ideas about public problems, their causes, and solutions. These people express their beliefs with the goal of persuading others to influence policy debates. The expressed beliefs can be called ‘policy frames.’
The theory assumes that both people and their expressed beliefs are persistent in policy debates. This simply means they stick around overtime. Several applications of the theory have confirmed this assumption in countries like South Africa, United States, Canada, Brazil, China, and Finland. These confirmations, however, ignore the issue of data magnification and compression.
In other words, aggregating data (magnification) to observe group-level characteristics and reducing data (compression) to analyze individual-level attributes may not produce the same conclusions about the persistence of people and their expressed beliefs in policy debates. This observation is based on the tendency of people and their expressed beliefs to shift in response to governance dynamics over time.
My Policy & Politics article rectifies this challenge by analysing oil and gas governance in Ghana. The data were collected from two news media sources in Ghana called Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times. These outlets were selected for their extensive coverage of Ghana’s socio-political issues. The data covered 2007 to 2019 and were coded using a scheme that was adapted from other articles (see Heikkila et al. 2019).
The data were analyzed using a content analysis technique called network analysis. This approach facilitates the analysis of relationships between people engaged in public policy.
The findings demonstrate that groups in support of oil and gas development in Ghana persist overtime. For instance, a pro-oil and gas coalition, comprising people in government, business, and nonprofits remained stable in the policymaking space.
However, the individuals belonging to this group, such as ministers of state and consultants, shift continuously.
Additionally, some of the beliefs used in oil and gas policy debates were expressed more frequently compared to others. Specifically, beliefs on energy security, capacity building, local content and local participation were expressed frequently. However, beliefs on health and safety, environment, and stakeholder engagement were expressed less frequently.
In summary, then, the article highlights two points. First, groups seeking to influence public policy may be persistent, but individuals may be transitory. Second, the frequency of expressed beliefs in policy debates differs. The article contributes to our understanding of public policy by demonstrating that data magnification or compression may influence conclusions about whether people and their expressed beliefs are persistent in policy debates.
You can read the original research in Policy & Politics: Osei-Kojo, A. (2023). Analysing the stability of advocacy coalitions and policy frames in Ghana’s oil and gas governance, Policy & Politics https://doi.org/10.1332/030557322X16651632139992
Alex Osei-Kojo is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
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