Policy Analysis Series E-201. September 2023|
This document is a work in progress.
Comments and suggestions are welcome!
. Released 12 September 2023
This document introduces the construct - "Lack-Gap-Mismatch (LGM) Analysis" that can be used to identify and categorize problems faced in a network. A basic template of the issue under study is done by studying the inputs, throughputs and outputs. This template is used to compare the perceived needs (or desired scenario) with the existing situation. This brings out the lacks (that which is not there - needing promulgations and raising of consciousness to be done), gaps (that which is not sufficient - needing enhancements and stepping up of efforts to be done) and mismatches (that which is incompatible - needing changes alterations to be done).
The Lack-Gap-Mismatch analysis was first conceptualized through a number of brain storming sessions in community development that took place in squatter settlements of Pune, India during 1989. After a comprehensive socio-economic survey of the settlement residents, the results were tabulated and discussed by them in a series of community meetings. In seeking to categorize the problems, they identified and studied the causes of problems in their settlements. They felt that identifying this was important in finding an appropriate solution at the appropriate level. The approaches and programmes/projects that they later recommended to the city authorities was greatly facilitated by this approach.
A significant output of these meetings and other subsequent interactions was the problem classification methodology adopted. The differing variety of problems that the residents faced led to the idea of classifying them as 'lacks', 'gaps', or 'mismatches.' This construct was then put to practical test in diverse situations in settlements in Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta, until it took its present shape.
The Lack-Gap-Mismatch (LGM) Analysis is a method devised to evaluate the existing status and shortcomings of any situation or issue, for example, the informal credit market, a poverty alleviation programme or a low-income housing settlement.
As the name suggests, there are three problem areas being studied here: 'lacks' - that which is not there; 'gaps' - that which is not sufficient; and 'mismatches' - that which is not compatible. Thus, problems identified in the field fall into one of these three categories and work on making recommendations for action is greatly facilitated. Any policy, programme or project being evaluated may have its strong as well as weak points. The LGM Analysis helps in identifying and differentiating between these points. Recommendations made as a result will direct resources where they are most needed while retaining its good or beneficial points.
To understand the LGM construct, it is necessary to firstly diagnose the issue being studied. This is done by identification of the particular flow of inputs, throughputs and outputs through the system under study. A comparison of scenarios is done, where the perceived needs or 'desired scenario' is compared to the existing situation. This comparison will highlight the problems that are occurring and can be accordingly categorized as a lack, gap or mismatch. Corrective action needed to be taken to remove the lacks, gaps and mismatches will involve identification of the actors, their preconditions, operations to be carried out and intended effects.
2. Inputs, Throughputs and Outputs
One of the first steps to be taken is to diagnose the system by studying its inputs, throughputs and outputs. This will generate the basic template over which future analysis can be based. The inputs and outputs could be internal or external to the system - and it should be distinguished as such. This helps in classifying the contributing components of the system. It also helps in directing corrective action that needs to be taken.
- The Flow of Inputs - that which is introduced/inducted into the system or sub-system as necessary ingredients for its initiation. What are the inputs that are necessary to be included into the system for it to 'begin' or be initiated? There are two types of inputs: one from within (or internal to) the system, and the other from outside (or external to) the system. (For example, collecting earth and brick-making machines to produce bricks or an NGO initiating community meetings).
Characteristics of the inputs that have to be examined can include, type and format (quality), quantity of required inputs, supplier or 'provider', temporal point of feeding into the process, cost factors and labour requirements.
- The Flow of Throughputs - that which is transformed by a process to a form which makes it usable and functional within the system. What is the process of transformation of the input components to a usable form? In the throughput process, the components are converted or modified from a non-usable state to a usable state (e.g. processing of earth to produce bricks for housing, or a group of squatters deciding to form a self-help association).
Characteristics of the throughputs that have to be examined can include, original state of the components, process of transformation or change, final state of the components created, actors initiating and maintaining the process, quality of the process - linear or cyclical, type of intermediate products created, if any, time involved in the production and finance requirements.
- The Flow of Outputs - that which is generated or produced by the system in an intermediate or final form. What are outputs of the system? Qualitative and quantitative attributes of the product that has been output have to be studied. The output may be a final-form product used external to the system, or an intermediate-form product used internally at a particular stage in the process (e.g. bricks for house building, the house itself, or credit supplied by the self-help association).
Characteristics of the outputs that have to be examined can include, qualitative attributes of the product, quantitative measurements of the product, characteristics of the market that deals in the product, user characteristics, by-products produced, if any, and re-sale/re-use of the products.
3. Comparison of Desired Scenario and Existing Provisions
The LGM construct is better suited for linear rather than longitudinal or time-series evaluation. A comparison of a 'desired scenario' with the existing situation is developed from the 'perceived needs' of the target group being studied.
There are two distinct entities being compared: the 'perceived needs or desired scenario' and the 'existing provisions or situation'. While data pertaining to the existing situation can be collected directly from the field, data for 'perceived needs/desired scenario' is more complex to gather. The following discussion might offer some guidelines:
Perceived needs or Desired Scenario
There are three criteria here: needs, wants, desires. The three represent a hierarchy of priorities, with desires having least priority and need being an immediate and important priority. The scenario can be developed in several ways:
- Internally, by direct questions to the target population in expressing their desires, wants and needs. Personal observations, informal discussions and community discussions can also be used to gather views.
- Externally, by observing and recording stated goals and objectives of the responsible implementing agency or organization. These could be immediate, intermediate or eventual goals and objectives. Opinions of academics, resource persons, politicians and administrators not directly related to the project or programme can also be used to develop the scenario.
Collecting data indicative of the existing provision/situation can be done directly from the field. Emphasis should be placed on several different methods of data gathering: standardized questionnaire survey with target respondents, observations by the researcher, scheduled interviews and opinion surveys with various individuals involved directly or indirectly. While this may cause overlaps to a certain extent, differing views and cross-checking will strengthen the findings.
A comparison of the desired scenario/perceived needs with the existing situation will bring into focus the various problems being faced.
4. The Lack-Gap-Mismatch Analysis
The character of the problems identified in the previous steps is classified as a lack, gap or mismatch, using criteria mentioned below.
5. Post-evaluation Application: After the LGM Analysis
- The Lack Sub-analysis
'Lack' (that which is not there) refers to a situation where the existing provisions made do not meet perceived needs of the target. In other words, the desired scenario does not exist or is not complete due to the 'lack' of certain necessities.
Corrective action to overcome a lack will take the form of, for example, promulgations, declarations. or raising consciousness. Therefore, new recommendations or policies would have to be devised so as to remedy problems encountered in this category. This may entail organizational (structural or policy guidelines) and/or operational (action programmmes or procedures) modifications.
The criteria that can be used to identify lacks may include: defect, deficiency, demerit, deficit, dearth, deprivation, fault, flaw, imperfection, inadequacy, incompetence, indigence, need, poverty, scarcity, or want.
In the context of public policy, a lack can refer to the absence or deficiency of specific policy measures or interventions. For example, a lack of regulations to address environmental pollution, a lack of social welfare programs for vulnerable populations, or a lack of infrastructure for sustainable transportation.
Some examples of lacks can include:
- Lack of affordable housing policies in urban areas to address the housing needs of low-income individuals and families.
- Lack of comprehensive cybersecurity regulations to protect sensitive personal data and prevent cyber threats.
- Lack of inclusive education policies that ensure equal access to quality education for students with disabilities.
- Lack of renewable energy incentives and support mechanisms to promote the transition to clean energy sources.
- Lack of policies addressing the digital divide, particularly in rural and marginalized communities, to ensure equitable access to digital technologies and internet connectivity.
The Gap Sub-analysis
'Gap' (that which is insufficient) refers to a situation where the provisions made are those perceived by the target population, but are essentially insufficient or inadequate.
Recommendations made to remedy problems encountered in this category would cover, for example, a more intensive implementation of the same policy or pogram or higher financial allocations. Thus, corrective action for gaps would take the form of enhancements or stepping up efforts to facilitate the accomplishment of existing pograms/policies.
The criteria used in identifying associated with gaps can include: break, cessation, delay, disparity, inadequate, insufficiency, interval, lag, lapse, lull, shortcoming, shortage, suspension, or undersupply.
A gap in public policy refers to a situation where existing policies or programs are insufficient or inadequate to address the desired outcomes. This can include gaps in funding, implementation, or coverage. For instance, a gap in healthcare policy could involve inadequate access to healthcare services in certain regions or insufficient resources allocated to specific health programs.
Some examples of gaps include:
- Implementation gap in environmental policies where existing regulations and standards are not effectively enforced, leading to environmental degradation and pollution.
- Gap in healthcare services in underserved rural areas, resulting in limited access to primary care providers and specialized medical facilities.
- Policy implementation gap in education that leads to disparities in educational outcomes between different socioeconomic groups.
- Gap in financial inclusion policies, where certain populations, such as low-income individuals or rural communities, lack access to formal banking and financial services.
- Gap in climate change adaptation strategies, with inadequate measures to address the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities.
- The Mismatch Sub-Analysis
'Mismatch' (that which is not compatible) refers to a situation where the provisions made are incongruous to, and do not match the perceived desires/wants/needs of the target population.
Problems encountered in this category have to be tackled by a change or modification in existing policies and programmes, where redundant sections or portions are removed and/or replaced.
The criteria associated with identification of mismatches can include: anomaly, abnormality, atypical, clash, conflict, contradiction, contrary, deviancy, difference, disparate, dissimilarity, divergency, improper, ill-adopted, ill-suited, inept, ineligibility, inappropriateness, incongruous, inconsistency, unequipped, unequal, unfit, unqualified, unrelated or unsuitable.
A policy mismatch occurs when the existing policies or programs are incongruous or incompatible with the needs and aspirations of the target population. This can result in inefficiencies or ineffective outcomes. Examples of policy mismatches could include contradictory policies on energy production and environmental conservation, or policies that are not aligned with the cultural values and practices of indigenous communities.
Some examples of mismatches include:
- Mismatch between economic development policies and sustainable environmental practices, leading to environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.
- Mismatch between transportation policies and urban planning, resulting in traffic congestion, air pollution, and inefficient public transportation systems.
- Cultural mismatch in social welfare policies that do not consider the unique needs and values of indigenous communities, leading to ineffective and culturally insensitive interventions.
- Mismatch between education curricula and the evolving job market, resulting in a skills gap and unemployment among graduates.
- Mismatch between agricultural policies and climate change realities, where farming practices and subsidies do not align with sustainable land management and climate resilience goals.
As indicated earlier, a lack calls for promulgations or the raising of consciousness, a gap for enhancements or stepping up efforts, and a mismatch for modifications or alterations. In order to ensure that these are carried out in a step-by-step and smooth manner, four steps of action to be taken can be distinguished: actors, preconditions, operations and effects.
- Actors, or Who is to do it? The key to the identification of participating actors is to make best use of the available institutional and professional resources, keeping the overlaps and intrusions to a minimum. Direct role players and indirect/supportive actors have to be identified and distinguished.
- Preconditions, or What preconditions need to be satisfied before any action can be taken? These preconditions would apply to both the operations that have to be carried out and actors who are to carry them out. This is essential to ensure that maximum participation and commitment are contributed by the actors so as to achieve the intended effect.
- Operations, or How can it be done? A clear set of actions and sub-actions need to be detailed out in overcoming lacks, closing gaps and undoing mismatches. Temporal and geographical variations in the operations, if any, also need to be specified.
- Effects, or What is the intended effect of the action/operation? This will have to match the overall goals and objectives of the project/ programme. Detailing the intended effects for every action will help in the consequent monitoring and evaluation, and to initiate another cycle of LGM analysis.
By identifying each problem through this process, the character of the action to be taken will reflect the type of classification made: whether it is a lack, gap or mismatch. The recommended actions to be taken can take the form of a policy, pogram or project.
The key to usefulness of the LGM construct lies in its suitability for diagnosis and perception of a problem, and guiding corrective action. This characterization is essential due to the widely differing sets of problems or issues that are identified, the causes and its effects. By doing this, scarce physical and human resources can be conserved and utilized in an appropriate manner, and direct it where it is most needed.