Policy Window

… a core concept used in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below, p. 125) defines policy windows as “unpredictable openings in the policy process that create the possibility for influence over the direction and outcome of that process.”

Pal writes (p. 113):

“A great deal of the agenda-setting process is contingent on unpredictable factors and personalities, or as Kingdon puts it, the “opening of policy windows.” Windows sometimes open regularly (e.g., cabinet shuffles and budget speeches), but who jumps through successfully or not is still a matter of chance and skill. It is clear that some issues are driven onto the agenda by fundamental characteristics of a political community and economy: in Canada, for example, the perennial questions of Quebec and of our relationship to the United States. Modern welfare states have a wide range of important redistributive social programs that are of vital importance to recipient groups (e.g., pensions and the elderly), and so issues of this type are usually high on the public agenda. Massive changes in economic circumstances or powerful shifts in technology also have a way of rippling through the political system and generating issues for public discussion. But these structural explanations can illuminate only the broad shape of the public agenda. Much depends on political jockeying, policy entrepreneurs, and combinations of complex and unpredictable forces.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Problem Definition and Agenda Setting (core topic) in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101 Policy Analysis and Process.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Kingdon, J. W. (1995). Agendas, alternatives, and public policies (2nd ed.). New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 31 March 2017.

Image: Elitis, Fire Escape Windows, at http://www.elitis.co.uk/windows/fire-escape-windows/, accessed 31 March 2017.