Network structures and their relevance to the policy cycle: A case study of The National Male Health Policy of Australia Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • While focussing on influential actors within a policy network may provide insight into the shaping of policy, it fails to elucidate how the network itself may moderate the behaviours of actors when participating in the policy process. Applying Skok's (1995) structural-functional framework, this study explores whether network analysis provides an alternative analytical approach to explain how the broader structural features of the network may influence actors participating in different functional phases of the policy cycle. To illustrate the rationale for a network analysis approach to policy analysis, we introduce the 2010 Australian National Male Health Policy, as an illustrative case of a network of competing interests within the broader health policy domain. An analysis of the associated men's health network and the network structures that exist for different relational purposes identified a weak (low density) network, which lacked a hierarchical structure, and where levels of reciprocity between actors was low. Network characteristics changed depending on the relationship type between actors, highlighting the dynamic nature of networks and reflecting the different imperatives of the policy process. An understanding of network structures gained from the network analysis approach described in this study potentially provides policy-makers, and stakeholders, with an alternative tool to stakeholder analysis when considering engagement with the policy process.

publication date

  • January 2012