Analyzing Policy Fields: Helping Students Understand Complex State and Local Contexts

Jodi R Sandfort, Melissa M Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


A collaborative approach to public management is critical in an era of governance that depends upon networks more than centralized bureaucracies, yet public affairs education has not adequately responded to the need to develop new tools to support analysis of complex settings. Policy field analysis is one tool that can help professionals-in-training learn to act purposively within complex policy environments. Policy fields—public and private institutions, in a substantive public policy or program area, in a particular place—shape how state and local actors work to solve public management problems, and their pursuit of programmatic goals in turn shapes the policy field. Using a well-known teaching case, the authors present a series of analytical questions and mapping tools that help clarify the structure of complex policy environments; the institutional and interorganizational relationships involved; and the resources that influence interactions in the policy field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-148
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Public Affairs Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008

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