Policymaking for a Good Society: The Social Fabric Matrix Approach to Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation.

Author:Peach, Jim
Position:Book review
 
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Policymaking for a Good Society: The Social Fabric Matrix Approach to Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation, by F. Gregory Hayden. New York: Springer-Verlag. 2006. Hardcover: ISBN 0 387 29369 8, $84.95. 251 pages.

Hayden's new book is the product of his decades of involvement in the policy-making process. His description of the book is revealing: "This is a 'how to' book for policy analysts and policymakers to use for policy and program analysis in order to design policies and programs that work more efficiently and effectively solve problems" (p. 4). This is a tall order, but one that has been handled well. The book addresses the closely related questions of how to make effective policy decisions and how such decisions can be evaluated in a dynamic, complex, social system in which the policies under consideration are designed to alter the system itself.

Many, if not most, readers of the JEI are familiar with Hayden's work--a great deal of which has appeared in the pages of this journal. Those who are familiar with his previous work will not be surprised to find that the Social Fabric Matrix (SFM) is the central focus of his current effort, but the book offers much more than a detailed explanation of the SFM. Hayden's approach is to begin by recognizing the complexity of any policy problem. Almost by definition any meaningful policy problem involves cultural values, social beliefs, personal attitudes, social institutions, technology and the ecological system. Hence, careful and complete policy analysis generally requires the expertise of many disciplines. The role of the SFM is to help organize the process of analysis so that the experts from many disciplines understand the big picture, to ensure that nothing gets lost, and to design a research program focused on issues that matter. Recognizing which issues are important is critical. As Hayden states: "Public inquiry would be impossible if all connections were to be pursued" (p. 28).

Although Hayden sees little use for such traditional program evaluation tools as cost-benefit analysis, he is careful to point out that the SFM approach does not rule out other analytical approaches to problem solving. General Systems Analysis (GSA), he argues is fully consistent with the SFM approach. The...

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