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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.