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  • Keywords: success x
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Article

Allan McConnell

How can we know if policies succeed or fail, and what are the causes of such outcomes? Understanding the nature of these phenomena is riddled with complex methodological challenges, including differing political perspectives, persistent mixed results, ambiguous outcomes, and the issue of success/failure “for whom”? Ironically, the key to understanding policy success and failure lies not in downplaying or ignoring such challenges, but in accepting politicization and complexity as reflective of the messy world of public policy. Gaining insight from such messiness allows a better understanding of phenomena like “good politics but bad policy,” the persistence of some failures over time, and widely differing perspectives on who or what should claim credit for policy success and who or what should be blamed for policy failure.

Article

Administrative careers are careers of civil servants, who are the individuals working in public administration institutions at different levels (central, state or regional, local) of government. Characteristics of a country’s civil service system determine what administrative career patterns typically look like. In the literature, two ideal-types of civil service systems are distinguished: the career-based system and the position-based system. In countries with a position-based civil service system, administrative careers usually are more diverse than in countries with a career-based civil service system. In most countries, however, intersectoral career mobility of civil servants is rather low. In democratic systems, recruitment and promotion in the civil service is formally based on merit and (with decreasing significance) seniority, while in practice political criteria and representativeness can be important selection criteria, especially for promotion to senior-level positions. As a consequence of their influential role in policy-making in many countries, research on careers in public administrations is mainly focusing on top-level positions: by analyzing the career background of top officials, public administration scholarship aims to understand the determinants of career success in public administrations as well as processes of administrative elite (re-)production and politicization. Findings from empirical studies suggest that political criteria do not crowd out meritocratic criteria in recruitment in most established democracies but that politicization can have severe negative impacts on administrative outcomes in young democracies and developing countries. Comparative empirical studies on administrative careers based on common datasets are largely lacking so far. More systematic comparative studies (across countries and over time) on administrative careers would not only make it possible to understand how larger systemic developments (e.g., administrative reform movements, democratic backsliding) affect mechanisms of recruitment and promotion in the civil service, but also help to better understand the inner mechanisms in bureaucratic organizations (e.g., by identifying organizational patterns of inequality).

Article

Crises and disasters come in many shapes and sizes. They range from global pandemics and global financial crises to tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanic ash clouds, bushfires, terrorist attacks, critical infrastructure failures and food contamination episodes. Threats may be locally isolated such as an explosion at a local fireworks factory, or they may cascade across multiple countries and sectors, such as pandemics. No country is immune from the challenge of managing extraordinary threats, and doing so out of their comfort zone of routine policy making. The crisis management challenge involves managing threats ‘on the ground’, as well as the political fallout and societal fears. Populist and journalistic commentary frequently labels crisis management initiatives as having either succeeded or failed. The realities are much more complex. Evaluators confront numerous methodological challenges. These include the careful consideration of multiple and often competing outcomes, differing perceptions, issues of success for whom, and gray areas stemming from shortfalls and lack of evidence, as well as variations over time. Despite such complexity, some key themes appear continually across evaluations, from internal reviews to royal commissions and accident inquiries. These pertain to the ways in which evaluations can be shaped heavily or lightly by political agendas, the degree to which evaluating organizations are able to open up, the degree to which gray areas and shortfalls are stumbling blocks in producing findings, and the challenge of producing coherent investigative narratives when many storylines are possible. Ultimately, evaluating crisis initiatives is “political” in nature because it seeks to provide authoritative evaluations that reconcile multiple views, from experts and lawyers to victims and their families.