This chapter addresses the initial moments of the policy-making process, namely, problem definition and agenda-setting. Most citizens and organizations possess some concerns – real or perceived – that they believe merit government attention. Our first goal in this chapter is to show that problem definition is subject to different interpretations and ‘social construction’, which also entails that there is competition over how a problem is defined. Although there are many problems, in the end only a small number of them will be given attention by legislators and executives. Problems chosen by decision-makers for further consideration constitute the policy agenda. Our second goal is to outline the dynamics by which ideas, policy proposals and new understandings of problems are formulated. We will learn that the possibility of influencing the policy agenda is an important source of power, since decision-making grants an advantage to those who address a problem and propose a solution to it first. Several groups of actors compete with one another in order to set the agenda in accordance with their respective policy preferences.
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