The course content assumes that participants have taken at least one policy course at the graduate level. It is anticipated that some seminar members will have done significant amounts of policy analysis in their careers. It is expected that all have a keen interest in a specific policy area that is part of their doctoral research agenda. The content and organization of the seminar is based on these assumptions.
The seminar will focus on current social policy dilemmas facing countries such as Canada. All have normative aspects (for instance, an emphasis on rights versus social benefits), while debates are framed within local, national and international discourses which often seem to be competing and disjointed. How these dilemmas are resolved will greatly affect those groups whom social workers serve. The course has been divided into three segments.
The first part will focus on assessing the frameworks behind several models of social policy and the theories that inform them. These include: the Policy Stages model (probably most familiar); Institutional Rational Choice; Multiple Streams Framework; Punctuated Equilibrium model; Advocacy Coalition model; Policy Diffusion Model. Models vary in their foci e.g., some are concerned with short-term policy effects, others focus on long-term changes, several are concerned with issues of making valid comparisons across countries.
The second segment will consider issues that affect the policy climate nationally and internationally. For instance:
- Globalization and its impact in different social policy areas;
- Modern governance and the relationship between citizens, state and business;
- The current concern with issues of social exclusion, social cohesion and social capital;
- The balance between responsibilities and rights in changing claims of citizenship;
- Difference and its relationship to the idea of universalism;
- The New Economy, e.g., information technology and knowledge based economies;
- Security concerns and their effects on social policy in the post 9/11 environment.
Key to the quality of discussions will be input by each seminar member as they use their own policy area for grounding and assessing how the above frameworks and debates look when applied in real life situations.
The third part of the course is the debate arising from the oral presentations which are the first part of the assignment. The assignment will be two-fold. The first part is an oral “Briefing of the Minister” approach wherein students lay out the relevant issues in specified areas using no more than five slides. The final assignment is a policy analysis paper, directed to a suitable journal, which takes up the policy issue addressed in briefing notes and makes recommendations. It is expected that this manuscript will actually be submitted after the course.