Review of Public Administration and Management

Review of Public Administration and Management
Open Access

ISSN: 2315-7844



Contrasting between Focusing, Real-world and Significant Events in Agenda-Setting: Introducing a New Typology of “Anchor” Events

Mergen Dyussenov

The focusing event theory has been substantially formed by contributions of John Kingdon by offering a somewhat broader definition of focusing events through the prism of his multiple streams theory, and Thomas Birkland, who introduced better precision by listing a number of basic characteristics of focusing events (e.g. using the example of 9/11 terrorist attacks as a focusing event, as in Birkland 2004). These major contributions notwithstanding, there still seems to be a strikingly persistent absence of clarity in defining the notion of "focusing events" within the agenda-setting stage of the policy process, and a lack of a general typology of related significant, or key events. Even somewhat more disturbing is that, inspired by Birkland’s notion of focusing events, a number of subsequent scholars attempted to develop this theory, unintentionally further conflating the meaning of focusing events. Thus, it is important not only to more clearly define focusing events but also to develop an operationalizable typology of a broader set of related anchor events as applied to agenda-setting. It is precisely these two issues that form the analytical essence and contributions this paper aims to achieve. The focusing event theory has become increasingly vital to explain a wide range of social and policy-related events, e.g. 9/11, large-scale earthquakes, major healthcare reforms in a given jurisdiction etc.