Narrative Policy Analysis

Narrative policy analysis uses contemporary literary theory and policy analysis to address policy issues whose complexity, controversial nature and high degree of uncertainty make them resistant to conventional techniques. As the European Commission's White Paper on Employment makes plain, the issue of job creation provides a prime example of complexity, uncertainty and controversy.

Emery Roe, author of Narrative Policy Analysis, sees narrative policy analysis as proceeding through four steps:

  1. The analyst identifies those policy narratives that dominate the issue in question. Dominant policy narratives are defined as scenarios and arguments taken by one or more parties to a controversy to underwrite their assumptions for policy making in the face of the issue's uncertainty, complexity or polarization.

  2. The analyst identifies other narratives in the issue that do not conform to the definition of story or that run counter to the controversy's dominant policy narratives.

  3. The analyst compares the two sets of narratives (stories and non-stories) in order to generate a metanarrative (that is, another narrative, which explains how each of the various narratives somehow remains plausible even in the face of conflict between them).

  4. The analyst determines if or how the metanarrative recasts the issue in such a way as to make it more amenable to decision making and policy making. (Roe, 1994, p.3-4)

Narrative policy analysis is particularly suited to completing the scan of recent analyses of the future of work and for identifying and analyzing federal and provincial policies, strategies and programs and those of other industrial economies, as called for by the first and second terms of reference of the Ministry's invitation for proposals.

There is also in Roe's description a "next step" -- beyond the narrative analysis proper -- which involves the application of more conventional policy analytical tools: microeconomics, statistics, organization theory, law and public management practice. Where possible, the current study will prepare scenarios of labour market change in British Columbia over the next 5, 10 and 20 years and analyze that change by sector and region and by the nature of public and private investments.

Because the analyses of future change will be grounded in a clear appreciation of their complexity, uncertainty and controversial nature, suggested policy options and pilot projects, as called for by the fourth term of reference, will be credible, flexible and capable of being implemented on a limited scale.

[Return to TimeWork home page] [Overview of the research process]

Copyright 1995 by KnoW Ware Communications