Directional Policy Research

When conducting directional policy research, one can use both qualitative and quantitative methods to answer a number of common research questions.  The focus of the research question is often on defining the nature and extent of the problem to be addressed by the policy and articulating what the benefits of the policy are likely to be and to whom those benefits are likely to accrue.

Since the focus of policy analysis is to make a choice about the best strategy for implementation, research at the directional level may also focus on identifying the strengths and weaknesses of various policy options, and in the process, identify those policies that are to be given preference over others based on some defined selection criteria.   This kind of analysis can be limited to simple benefit analysis (i.e. which strategy will make the biggest positive change in the lives of target beneficiaries) or it may extend to a more complex cost-benefit analysis (i.e. which strategy will make the biggest positive change in the lives of targeted beneficiaries for the money invested).  Completing a complex cost-benefit analysis assumes that a robust costing of various policy options has been done, which is also a form of directional policy research.

At this level of policy research, it is also possible and beneficial to focus research activities on the process of implementation iteself.  For example, a researcher may focus his or her data collection and analysis on defining and understanding which and why various stakeholders should participate in the policy formation process.  Alternatively, some implementation researchers focus their efforts on describing, qualifying and/ or quantifying the barriers to the enactment of a chosen policy action.

In summary, at his level the research focus should be on one or more of the following:

  • Ensuring that the problem to be addressed by the policy solution has been properly defined, quantified and that those affected by the problem have been correctly identified.
  • Identifying a range of policy response options and selecting the one best suited to address the problem based on a defined set of selection criteria (e.g. benefit, cost-benefit, feasibility, etc).
  • Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a range of options, including the barriers to implementation of the policy action given an appropriate understanding of the local context.

Learn more about Strategic Policy Research in the following

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