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Article

Understanding policy instrument choices and the range of possibilities present in any implementation situation is key for both policy advisors and decision makers. These choices are a concern in policy formulation, which requires an understanding of what kinds of instrument options exist, which subset of tools is generally considered feasible or possible in a given context, and which among that smaller subset of all possible tools is deemed by policy experts, politicians, and the public to be the most appropriate to use at a given time. And, once plans have been adopted, questions of how they can best be implemented and how implementation can be done by governments raise another key set of instrument-related issues important to both policymaking and public administration.

Article

In the early 21st century the public debates about the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations municipal ordinances and statewide and national laws represent another step in the ongoing struggle of the social movement seeking to advance the rights and liberties of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender, and other queer (LGBTQ) people. Situating these current debates in the larger context of the LGBTQ movement connects this emergent issue to that broader struggle. The LGBTQ social movement and its counter-movement, often referred to as the Religious Right, have had numerous battles over social policy since the late 20th century. Importantly, movements and their counter-movements identify winning strategies and, at times, tactically innovate so as to effect a shift in current tactics in light of a failing strategy. Tactical innovation includes shifting policy debates, which has been a primary tactic of the counter-movement to LGBTQ rights. Transgender rights broadly and public accommodations policies specifically represent a tactical innovation in the ongoing development of LGBTQ rights in the United States. How has gender identity inclusion in public accommodations been addressed in politics, policy, and law? There are numerous dimensions of gender identity public accommodations policies as understood in social movements, American law, public policy and administration, public opinion, and sociology and social psychology. Public accommodations are a constant source of public contention. The legal landscape in constitutional, federal, state, and municipal approaches to these policies remains uncertain, and there are competing interpretations of law in whether gender identity protections are covered in existing federal statutes. The rhetoric of the policy debates in both state legislatures and initiative and referendum campaigns primarily focuses on the potential harms to women and girls brought about by men taking advantage of such laws to assault them in sex-segregated public facilities. An account of public opinion about these policies also shows that American adults are far more divided about transgender people using restrooms consistent with their current gender identity than other aspects of transgender rights such as employment nondiscrimination policies. Experimental interventions, such as in-depth conversations encouraging people to consider the day in the life of a transgender person, reduce transphobia and make people more resistant to arguments opposed to the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations laws. Finally, some have questioned whether sex classifications are needed in public policy and how current non-discrimination laws achieve their stated goals without such a system. Further development and inquiry absolutely are needed in all these areas.

Article

Thomas A. Birkland and Kathryn L. Schwaeble

Agenda setting is a crucial aspect of the public policy process. Sudden, rare, and harmful events, known as focusing events, can be important influences on the policy process. Such events can reveal current and potential future harms, mobilize people and groups to address the policy failures that may be revealed by such events, and open the “window of opportunity” for intensive policy discussion and potential policy change. But focusing events operate differently at different times and in different policy domains. Although the idea of focusing events is firmly rooted in Kingdon’s “streams approach” to the policy process, focusing events are an important element of most contemporary theories of the policy process. But not every event works as a focusing event. The process by which a focusing event can yield policy change is complex and involves attention to the problems revealed by the event as well as evidence of learning from the event on the part of policymakers. Although focusing events are important, in many ways the concept remains underdeveloped, with few researchers seeking to understand the dynamics of these important events.

Article

Annelise Russell, Maraam Dwidar, and Bryan D. Jones

Scholars across politics and communication have wrangled with questions aimed at better understanding issue salience and attention. For media scholars, they found that mass attention across issues was a function the news media’s power to set the nation’s agenda by focusing attention on a few key public issues. Policy scholars often ignored the media’s role in their effort to understand how and why issues make it onto a limited political agenda. What we have is two disparate definitions describing, on the one hand, media effects on individuals’ issue priorities, and on the other, how the dynamics of attention perpetuate across the political system. We are left with two notions of agenda setting developed independently of one another to describe media and political systems that are anything but independent of one another. The collective effects of the media on our formal institutions and the mass public are ripe for further, collaborative research. Communications scholars have long understood the agenda setting potential of the news media, but have neglected to extend that understanding beyond its effects on mass public. The link between public opinion and policy is “awesome” and scholarship would benefit from exploring the implications for policy, media, and public opinion. Both policy and communication studies would benefit from a broadened perspective of media influence. Political communication should consider the role of the mass media beyond just the formation of public opinion. The media as an institution is not effectively captured in a linear model of information signaling because the public agenda cannot be complete without an understanding of the policymaking agenda and the role of political elites. And policy scholars can no longer describe policy process without considering the media as a source of disproportionate allocation of attention and information. The positive and negative feedback cycles that spark or stabilize the political system are intimately connected to policy frames and signals produced by the media.

Article

Wouter Vandenabeele and Carina Schott

Public service motivation (PSM) refers to an individual’s motivation to contribute to society. It relates to ideas about society, and about what public servants are and how they should behave, that have persisted for more than 2,500 years. Despite this heritage, PSM was only formally conceptualized in the 1990s. The concept of PSM has traditionally been linked to several beneficial outcomes, such as public performance and public servants’ satisfaction, but recently also to negative outcomes, such as burnout and rule-breaking. While PSM is an individual-level concept, the role of the social environment is crucial to understanding PSM. On the one hand, social institutions play an important role in creating individual-level PSM through socializing mechanisms. Institutions such as the family and workplace, and other structured value-based interaction patterns, correlate with the prevalence of individual PSM. On the other hand, to render outcomes, interaction with the environment—in terms of fit—is necessary, because PSM cannot exert influence outside a context where public values are prominent. As most research focuses on public servants in their work environment, this fit mostly entails a match of the individual public servant with the organization or the job. If this fit is lacking, little or no PSM occurs. Although PSM research was initially a theoretical and psychometric exercise, it is increasingly put to practical use.

Article

Behavioral public administration is an interdisciplinary research field that studies public administration topics by connecting insights from public administration with psychology and, more broadly, the behavioral sciences. Behavioral public administration scholars study important public problems such as discrimination, corruption, and burnout. Various public administration scholars—including Herbert Simon—have stressed the importance of connecting psychology and public administration. Yet until the early 2010s, public administration did not work systematically on this connection. This has changed profoundly with the development of various overview articles, dedicated special issues in general public administration journals, and development of new journals. Behavioral public administration has several uses. First, behavioral public administration tests and extends theories and concepts from psychology in political-administrative settings. Examples include tests of prospect theory and the choice overload hypothesis in public-administrative settings. Second, it tests and extends the micro-foundations of public administration theories and concepts, such as concerning co-production and isomorphism. Third, behavioral public administration scholars develop new theories and concepts. This has probably been less widespread than the previous two uses, but is nonetheless already apparent in, for instance, concepts such as public service motivation, policy alienation, and administrative burden. Fourth, behavioral public administration can help in tackling practical public problems. Insights from behavioral public administration have been used to increase diversity within public organizations and reduce burnout. The field of behavioral public administration can develop further. The field could move beyond one-shot single studies and aim to build cumulative knowledge. This can be done via large-scale collaborations and replications. In addition, it is also beneficial if behavioral public administration scholars broaden their methodological toolkit to answer different kinds of research questions. It should not only focus on causal inference questions but also on questions concerning description of societal problems (e.g. via representative surveys) or concerning prediction (e.g. by using machine learning).

Article

As a transdisciplinary puzzle, between international relations and public policy, foreign policy analysis (FPA) owes much to the study of decision-making processes and its early pioneers (Richard Snyder, James Rosenau, Harold and Margaret Sprout . . . ). Formulated and implemented by state agents, foreign policy fully belongs to the field of public policy studies, whose approaches have proved relevant to analyze its formulation. Still, it remains singular for several reasons. In constant interdependence with extraterritorial and mostly unpredictable actors or events, it is more reactive (or at least less proactive) than most domestic policies. Vulnerable to various transnational linkages, foreign policy also leads the analyst to rethink several pillars of public policy studies, such as the role of public opinion, the nature of elites, or the feasibility of evaluation. Its implementation, in particular, depends on the leeway resulting from foreign processes initiated in remote states or societies. Because what is at stake is national identity, reputation, or status, the national interest, and war and peace, the possibility of nonrational, psychologically biased, or even passionate responses to a political problem is higher. The emergence of nonstate actors (nongovernmental organizations, companies, religious groups), substate entities (regions, federated states), and suprastate organizations in international politics is a compelling factor that urges us to rethink foreign policy as public policy. The fading boundaries between domestic and international dimensions, as well as between public and private strategies, have a deep impact on the analysis. The theorization and practice of new kinds of policy networks are likely to be at the heart of future research agendas, both in international relations and public policy studies.

Article

Sharma Shubham, Lei Shi, and Xun Wu

Bureaucracy is one of the oldest institutions of a government system. Its role and importance have grown immensely in modern government systems. Bureaucrats or public administrators are indispensable in the policy decision making process in the 21st century. From the early conception as a branch of government responsible for the implementation of policy decisions and everyday functioning, bureaucracy has assumed a more active role in the policymaking process. It has gone through many reforms; however, these reforms have been largely incremental and static. While the external environment or the problems faced by bureaucracy is continuously evolving, the change in bureaucracy has not been in the same proportion. In the 21st century, many issues confronting bureaucracy are not only wicked but also global in nature. Moreover, challenges posed by technological disruptions and long-term processes such as climate change put bureaucracy at all levels of a government in a far trickier position than their earlier envisaged basic functions. In dealing with such challenges, the policy capacity of bureaucracy cannot be taken for granted. There are often significant gaps in capacity to anticipate a policy problem, to ensure coordination and preserve legitimacy, to translate global issues at local levels, and to learn from the past. It is crucial to strengthen analytical capacity at the individual and organizational level, operational capacity at the organizational level, and political capacity at the systems level to address these gaps. Tackling capacity gaps systematically would enable bureaucracy to design and implement policy and administrative reforms with a long-term vision of adaptation and evolution instead of merely in reactive mode. The policy capacity framework presented in this article is useful in identifying the capacity gaps that inhibit bureaucracy from evolving and the remedies to address these gaps.

Article

Thomas Bierschenk and Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan

Anthropology is a latecomer to the study of bureaucracy. Nonetheless, the anthropological study of organizations—of which bureaucracies are a subtype, as larger organizations are always bureaucratically organized—was initiated by anthropologists as early as the 1920s. Since the 2010s, the anthropology of bureaucracy has slowly consolidated into a discernible subfield of the discipline. It brings to the study of public administrations a double added value: (a) a specific concern for the informal aspects of bureaucracy, (b) the emic views of bureaucratic actors and their pragmatic contexts, based on long-term immersion in the research field, as well as (c) a non-Eurocentric, global comparative perspective. Anthropologists have focused on bureaucratic actors (“bureaucrats”), the discursive, relational, and material contexts in which they work, the public policies they are supposed to implement or to comply with, and their interactions with the outside world, in particular ordinary citizens (“clients”). A foundational theorem of the anthropological study of bureaucracies has been that you cannot understand organizations on the basis of their official structures alone: the actual workings of an organization are largely based on informal practices and practical rules; there is always a gap between organizational norms and “real” practices; large-scale organizations are heterogeneous phenomena; and conflicts, negotiations, alliances, and power relations are their core components. Thus, one of the major methodological achievements of the anthropology of bureaucracy has been to focus on the dialectics of formal organization and real practices, official regulations, and informal norms in organizations “at work.”

Article

Christoph Knill, Christina Steinbacher, and Yves Steinebach

Modern policymaking becomes an ever more complex and fragmented endeavor: Across countries, the pile of public policies is continuously growing. The risk of unintended interactions and ineffective policies increases. New and cross-cutting challenges strain the organizational setup of policymaking systems. Against this background, policy integration is assumed to present an antidote by improving the coherence, consistency, and coordination of public policies as well as of the processes that produce these policy outputs. Although various research attempts focus on policy integration, common concepts and theories are largely missing. The different facets of the phenomenon have only been covered disproportionally and empirical analyses remained fragmented. On these grounds, a more comprehensive and systematic view on policy integration is needed: To cope with complexity, governments are required to streamline and reconcile their products of policymaking (i.e., every single policy). Here, policymakers need to check for interactions with policies already adopted on the same level as well as with policies put in place by other levels of government (e.g., subnational). Moreover, policy integration also implies the creation and development of policymaking processes that systematically link political and administrative actors across various policy arenas, sectors, and levels. By elaborating on these process and product components of policy integration as well as on their horizontal and vertical manifestations, the different perspectives on policy integration are synthesized and embedded into a systematic framework. On the basis of this scheme of identifying four policy integration categories, it becomes clear that there are still loopholes in the literature. As these blind spots culminate in the absence of almost any concept on vertical policy process integration, a way of capturing the phenomenon is introduced through arguing that vertical policy process integration depends on the structural linkages between the policy formulation at the “top” and the implementation level at the “bottom.” More precisely, it is necessary to take account of the extent to which the policy producers have to carry the burden of implementation, and the degree to which the implementers can influence the policy design over the course of formulation. The proposed framework on policy integration is intended to serve as a guide for future research and to help to identify those aspects of policy integration in which further research efforts are required. Only in this way can policy integration as a theoretical and empirical concept be applied systematically across policy contexts—covering different countries, levels, and sectors— and serve as a stimulus for better policymaking.

Article

Marleen Brans and Ellen Fobé

Policy advice is a core function of modern bureaucracies. It can be distinguished from closely related concepts such as policy design, policy analysis and policy work – all of which are also conducted by the civil service. Civil servants remain critical advisory actors in the policy advisory system despite the fact that it latter has become more crowded and competitive. The bureaucracy is well placed to provide political executives with both long term and short-term policy advice. And bureaucrats often garner, even broker, input from other advisers in the advisory system. The academic community has shown concerns over an alleged decline of the capacity for policy advice because of growing advice competition and a trend towards politicization. While such worries have legitimate grounds, they are also marked by a Westminster bias. After all, advice competition and politicization are nothing new in consensus style polities with a traditional reliance on advisory input from societal actors and political advisers. This is not to say that bureaucratic advisory capacity does not have its difficulties. New Public Management reforms, cutbacks, and the focus on policy delivery instead of policy formulation have certainly had their impact. Yet recurrent meta-policies have also aimed to strengthen policy advisory capacities of bureaucrats. The evidence-based movement swept across the globe and left its mark, for instance, as have government-wide programs, such as policy skills frameworks and guidelines on standards for policy advice. The latter are particularly useful when considering that bureaucratic policy advisers are not the Sir Humphrey Abbleby’s at the apex of the bureaucracies, but include, as evidenced by research, a great number of often invisible and incidental advisers lower down in the bureaucratic hierarchy.

Article

Qualitative interview is one of the most important methods used to understand how public administration and the policy process work. It essentially involves questioning actors to obtain exclusive data about their day-to-day activities, their production of knowledge, the arguments they use, their relationships, the discrete meetings they participate in, their struggles, their strategies, and so on. Privileging “how” over “why,” it allows researchers to consider interviewees as witnesses of their own activities, enabling them to access the daily happenings within the administration, rather than as analysts from whom “good” and “acceptable” reasons are sought to justify their actions. These interviews must be analyzed exclusively by the interviewer, which supposes an epistemological analysis of the discourse and also requires researchers to bear in mind that any interview is a social relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee and necessarily leads to data bias, even though experience and several tips can help limit these biases.

Article

Judicial control over the bureaucracy is a means to defend the rule of law and important principles of democratic governance. It refers to the power of the courts to consider whether the actions of public authorities respect the limits prescribed by law. Regimes of judicial control vary in legal and administrative systems. Two major traditions can be mainly distinguished. The first characterizes continental Europe. It assigns judicial review to specialized administrative courts and involves a special branch of law, that is, administrative law. The second relies on ordinary courts and characterizes the Anglo-American system of common law. The two traditions also differ regarding the role of the courts and particularly their possibility to shape rules (common law tradition) or to apply rules (continental tradition). The expansion of state activities, including economic and social regulation and welfare service provision, has blurred the old politics–administration distinction since more and more decisions are delegated by parliaments to the administration, endowing it with wide discretionary powers. These developments have added a new meaning to the implementation of the rule of law. When the content of decisions is bound by a legal rule, legal compliance is more straightforward than when there is a margin of appreciation and choice. Circumscribing administrative discretion passes first and foremost from regulating the process of decision-making. Procedural standards have indeed been an area of primary concern for courts. Increasingly, nevertheless, substantive aspects of the administrative decision-making process and even service provision come under judicial scrutiny. Its extent inevitably differs from one legal system to another. The intensity of judicial review and its impact on (a) administrative operation and (b) policy decisions raise critical questions: how is it possible to achieve a balance between managerial flexibility, efficiency, and responsibility on the one hand and legal accountability on the other? To what extent may the courts substitute their own judgment for that of policymakers and the administrative or expert opinion underlying the decision under examination? How far do they go in scrutinizing policymaking and implementation? Judicial control involves constraining as well as constructive effects on the administration. It may contribute to an institution-building process (e.g., strengthening of Weberian-type features, increasing formalization, etc.) and to the agenda-building process, and it may influence policymaking. In certain contexts, courts even tend to become political actors. The reverse side is that they may step into matters of management and policymaking for which they are not prepared or institutionally responsible. This points to potential tensions between the administration (the executive) and the judiciary but also underlines the limitations of judicial control. Delicate issues regarding the separation of powers may emerge. Furthermore, cost, delays, the degree of administrative compliance with judicial decisions, and the ability of courts to integrate into their reasoning issues of efficiency and effectiveness constitute growing challenges to judicial control.

Article

Public administration theory and practice are been rife with competing values, and 21st-century trends and challenges create new value dilemmas. Values—standards and qualities that guide behavior and decision making—can compete for attention because they may be of equal importance to the larger public interest that administrative actors are aiming to realize yet adhering to each of them at once is not feasible or possible. Examples are transparency, accountability, equity, effectiveness, efficiency, and legality. Hence, administrative actors have to find ways to manage competing values at an individual and institutional level.

Article

While a phenomena dating back to antiquity, it wasn’t until the 1960s that American and European social scientists began seriously discussing occurrences in which it appeared as if localities, states and nations in close proximity were adopting similar policies and programs. These early diffusion studies led to a new field that has variously been referred to under titles such as policy transfer, lesson drawing, policy translations, and policy mobility. While having different focuses and agendas, all of these studies attempt to address issues associated with the movement (or active rejection of a possible movement) of ideas, information, policies, and programs from one political system to another. While all transfer studies have helped focus social scientists’ attention on the processes and actors involved in the transfer of ideas, techniques, policies, information, and programs, a better link to the knowledge utilization and learning literatures would help advance the usefulness of transfer studies. At a minimum, by considering the insights from the learning and utilization literatures, social scientists should begin understanding some of the outlook changes that individuals involved in transfer undertake that impact individual and institutional long-term understanding of the process and results. It will also start to help opening up the policymaking process to further scrutiny, particularly in relation to where information is flowing and how it is being used as a policy develops and changes.

Article

Initial research at the state level argued that there was little relationship between citizen preferences and policy. Later work successfully contested this view. First using state demographics or party voting as proxies for state opinion and then later developing measures of state ideology and measures of issue-specific state opinion, scholars found evidence that state policy is responsive to public preferences. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) policies are often recognized as distinct from other policy areas like economic, welfare, and regulatory issues. Scholars note that LGBT policies, due to their high saliency and relative simplicity, promote greater public input. Research on LGBT policies demonstrates the effects of both ideology and issue-specific opinion, exploring how the linkage between opinion and policy differs across more and less salient policy areas. This work also examines how political institutions and processes shape democratic responsiveness on LGBT issues. Recent research also considers how LGBT policies shape public opinion. While these strands in the literature are critical to understanding LGBT politics in the United States, they also contribute to the understanding of the quality of democratic governance in the U.S. federal system and the mechanics of the linkage between public opinion and policy.

Article

Transnational administration is the routinization and bureaucratization of global governance. Concepts of transnational administration move beyond methodological nationalism and absolutist understandings of administrative sovereignty vested solely with nation-state authorities to articulate various administrative arenas of global policy. Transnational administration is a new “third scale” of public administration. The first two scales of public administration are national administration, and its internationalization due to globalization, and the international public administration located in the secretariats of international organizations. Transnational administration incorporates nonstate actors in decentralized, devolved, or delegated interactions within and between policy communities operating in global and regional spheres. Organizations such as the Bank of International Settlements, the Kimberley Process, the Global Health and Partnership Model, and Transparency International highlight the actions of transnational administrative actors. Critiques of these and other organizations have raised new concerns about accountability, representation, and transparency.

Article

As a part of the policy process, implementation follows policy as formulated and decided upon. Three aspects can be distinguished as inherent to the term implementation. The first one regards the temporal order in which implementation in a policy process takes place. The second aspect concerns the causal logic, while the third one is about the form of authority. Policy implementation is looked at and talked about from two fundamentally contrasting perspectives. One can be called an “ideal” perspective, the other a realistic one. “Ideal” stands here for a use of the term implementation without further reflection; the phenomena the term refers to are taken for granted. By contrast, the alternative perspective can be labeled as a realistic one. This perspective is a construction as well, but instead of taking things for granted it invites for empirical observation and testing. From an ideal perspective implementation is viewed as following instructions. Implementation is seen as a separate stage, identifiable as such. Inputs are supposed to determine outputs, while authority is exercised in a hierarchical relationship. From a realistic perspective implementation is seen as practice. It is approached as a multilevel phenomenon. Results of a policy process are explained by a variety of factors and social mechanisms. Authority is exercised as based on various sources. Both the view on implementation as following instructions and its realistic opposite shed a relevant light on implementation and its place in the policy process. Each view can be found in the practice as well as the study of the policy process. In the expectations about national politics the view on implementation as following instructions may be more observed than the alternative view, while at the street level of government the opposite can be supposed. However, these concern empirical questions. As far as implementation research is concerned, the normative appeal of the assumptions underlying the view on implementation as following instructions makes that view still occurring. At the same time, these assumptions have been challenged rather fundamentally, both at a theoretical and empirical level. The opposite character of the two views has consequences for the ways implementation and its place within the policy process are understood, but also for the ways in which variation in the results of policy processes is explained. Ultimately, understanding and explaining those results are enhanced when an approach is adopted in which elements from both views have been incorporated.

Article

Dramatic changes in the way the public acquires information and formulates its attitudes have potentially altered the opinion and foreign policy relationship. While traditional approaches have treated public opinion on domestic and foreign matters as largely distinct, the culmination of a series of changes may eliminate the effective distinction between foreign and domestic policy, at least in terms of how the American political system operates. All the factors central to the opinion and foreign policy process, such as information acquisition, attitude formation, media effects, the effect of opinion on policy, and presidential leadership now appear to mirror the processes observed at the domestic level. This analysis reviews historical trends in the literature on public opinion and foreign policy that has focused on the rationality of the public’s opinions, the structure of its attitudes, and its influence on foreign policymaking. The traditional Almond-Lippmann consensus portrayed an emotional public with unstructured attitudes and little influence on foreign policy; however, revisionist views have described a reasonable public with largely structured views on foreign policy that can, at times, constrain and even drive those policies. More recently, the rise of “intermestic” issues, contain both domestic and international elements, such as globalization, inequality, terrorism, immigration, and climate change, have interacted to transform the domestic and international context. The bulk of this analysis highlights emerging new research directions that should be pursued in light of the changes. First, scholars should continue to evaluate the “who thinks what and why” questions with particular attention to differences between high- and low-information individuals, the effect of misinformation, and information sources. In doing so, research should build on research from non-American contexts that points to the important influences of societal and institutional factors. In addition to continued examination of traditional demographic factors such as partisanship and ideology, additional attention should turn to consider potential genetic and biological foundations of attitudes. Finally, researchers should continue to evaluate how the new media environment, including social media, affects how the public accesses information, how the media provides information, and how political elites attempt to shape both. Given these changes, scholars should consider whether it continues to make sense to treat public opinion dynamics regarding foreign policy as distinct from domestic policy and its implications.

Article

Although most public sector governance depends upon specialized organizations, there is also a need to create greater coordination and policy integration. Improving coordination can overcome problems of duplication, waste, and turf-fighting. Producing coordination is not easy, but there are a number of mechanisms available to would-be coordinators to make governments more coherent. Most of these mechanisms depend on hierarchy, but others depend more on ideas or networks. Although coordination is important for governance, it is not a panacea, and coordination may produce problems as well as solving them. Therefore, the choice between higher levels of specialization and coordination depends upon numerous political and administrative variables.