Identifying Advocacy Coalitions with the Advocacy Coalition Index: Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks in Finland and Sweden

Keiichi Satoh, Antti Gronow, Tuomas Ylä-Anttila


The current policymaking context is marked by complex problems that transcend jurisdictional boundaries and cut across multiple levels of government, thereby leading public policy scholars to increasingly focus on relationships of collaboration and competition between stakeholder coalitions. The Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) has particularly directed scholarly attention toward such relationships. The ACF defines an advocacy coalition as a group of actors who share beliefs and coordinate their action. To identify coalitions, some scholars start by finding groups who hold similar beliefs and then determine whether or not they also coordinate their action. Others proceed in the opposite order by initially looking at coordination relationships and subsequently examining whether or not there exists belief similarity. This inconsistency in measurement creates problems for comparative research and theory building. Thus, in this paper, we present a solution called the Advocacy Coalition Index (ACI), which surpasses existing approaches to studying coalitions via social network analysis tools to measure both belief similarity and coordination of action. Concretely, the identification of coalitions takes three steps: (1) the pair of the actors are plotted in a two dimensional graph where x-axis indicates the existence of the coordination and y-axis the similarity of beliefs; (2) the distance of the plotted pairs from the ideal type advocacy coalitions are calculated; (3) the relationships that deviate from the “ideal” type of coalitions are discarded so that only relationships that meet the definition of advocacy coalitions remain. The indexed score can also be aggregated from pairs level into actors’ and groups’ level so that researchers can identify the different roles actors/groups play in networks (e.g. brokers). The index, we argue, has several advantages. The ACI measures beliefs and coordination simultaneously, provides a standardized method for identifying coalitions that can be used for comparative research, and can be calculated at the levels of actors, coalitions, and policy domains. Furthermore, it focuses not only on existing collaboration ties, but also on those that do not exist despite belief similarity. To illustrate the ACI, we analyze the climate change policy networks in Finland and Sweden by demonstrating that the network in Finland possesses a stronger coalition structure and fewer brokers present than that in Sweden.

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