Converging Streams – A Combinatorial Approach to the Multiple Streams Framework

Kammermann, Lorenz; Ingold, Karin (7 September 2017). Converging Streams – A Combinatorial Approach to the Multiple Streams Framework (Unpublished). In: ECPR General Conference. Oslo. 6 - 9 September 2017.

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Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) is one of the most widely recognized political process theories and has been applied in a broad range of policy fields. The MSF draws from Cohen, March, and Olsen’s garbage can model of organizational choice and conceptualizes the policy process as three different but equally important streams. In order for policy change to arise these three streams need to converge in a ‘window of opportunity’ which allows new policies to emerge.

In recent years the MSF has been modified and newly conceptualized by various scholars who paid attention to the disputed independence of the three streams, the neglect of institutions in the MSF’s applications and to the overlapping of agenda setting and decision making. However, one aspect that remains relatively undisputed is that all three streams need to be manipulated by an entrepreneur and converge in order for policy change to arise. However, it has rarely been explored in which ways the three streams need to come together, whether or not entrepreneurs need to be present and which elements of the streams are relevant in an open policy window. It is crucial to conceptually clarify these aspects in order to overcome the black-box that often occurs in studies that try to explain policy change applying the MSF.

We therefore ask what factors or combinations of factors lead to the occurrence of a certain policy output? Furthermore, we pose the question whether all streams are equally relevant for the occurrence of this output?

In order to shed light on these questions, we first discuss recent additions to MSF theory and review their relevance for our research questions. We especially focus on policy instrument mixes and conceptualize them as outputs or product of a complex and often long-lasting decision-making process. In a second step, we formulate theoretical assumptions about what factors and combination thereof might have been most relevant for this outcome to be present. Besides procedural factors derived from the MSF, we complement the analysis with institutional factors. Third, we present two cases based on which we will explore whether or not our assumptions hold up: the promotion of hydroelectricity in the Swiss cantons and in the US states. Due to the combinatorial nature of the issue we systematically apply fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) and operationalize specific policy change as the outcome of interest and different elements of the three streams as conditions. We thus adopt a set-theoretic perspective and analyze whether given sets of cases stand in a superset- or subset-relationship to each other. Our paper concludes with the discussion of our results that help extend and conceptually clarify the MSF to future applications.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science

UniBE Contributor:

Kammermann, Lorenz, Ingold, Karin Mirjam


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science




Lorenz Kammermann

Date Deposited:

13 Nov 2017 17:08

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:07


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