Studying the generation of alternatives in public policy making processes

Valentina Ferretti, Irene Pluchinotta, Alexis Tsoukias


The design of alternatives is an essential part of decision making that has been less studied in theory and practice compared to alternatives’ evaluation. This topic is particularly relevant in the context of public policy making, where policy design repre- sents a crucial step of the policy cycle since it determines the quality of the alternative policies being considered. This paper attempts to formalise the decision aiding pro- cess in two real interventions dealing with alternatives’ generation for territorial policy making in Italy. The aim of this research is to understand what generates novelty within the alternatives’ design phase of a decision aiding process, i.e. what allows to expand the solution space and discover new alternatives to solve the problem under consideration. It demonstrates ways in which creativity in decision processes can be supported by Operational Research/Multicriteria Decision Aiding tools. The two case studies are used to answer the following questions: i) Why have new alter- natives arose during the policy making process? ii) How have they been generated? iii) Which consequences did they lead to? and iv) What generated novelty in the process? The results highlight two main reasons that can expand the solution space within a decision aiding process: i) dissatisfaction (of the client, of the analyst or of the relevant stakeholders, especially when dealing with public policies) with respect to the solutions currently proposed to the decision-making problem and ii) opportunity for a change in one of the variables/constraints.


policy design

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@Annual Review of Policy Design ISSN: ISSN 2291-6989