An emerging body of scholarship suggests that "Western" notions of policy analysis may not be relevant in "Eastern" jurisdictions, and that non-Western countries, particularly in Asia, may have their own local policy analytical style or tradition. However, in many Asian countries, little is known about the work that public sector policy analysts do. Using data from a survey and focus groups, this article investigates policy analysis and analytical capacity in the provincial government of West Java, Indonesia. We find ample signs of policy analytical activity as it would be understood by Western scholars, with little evidence of any specific Asian style.
One of key goals of deliberative mini-publics is to counteract expert domination in policymaking. Mini-publics can be expected to democratize expertise by providing citizens with good opportunities for weighing expert information. Yet, there are concerns about undue influence of experts even within mini-publics. We test these expectations by analysing data from an online mini-public organized in Finland in March 2021. The topic of deliberation was measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. We examine whether experts’ field of specialization and the order of expert hearings had an impact on how participants’ views developed. We find that neither the field of expertise nor the order of hearings had systematic effects on participants’ perceptions on containment measures. The results suggest that interactive modes of expert hearings in mini-publics seem not to be prone to domination by experts.
There has been revived scholarly interest in policy capacity recently. While it is widely assumed that capacity is important for policy performance, it is difficult to separate its impact from the effect of policy instruments to establish whether capacity can produce an independent and positive effect on target group behavior in relation to achieving policy objectives. Undertaking a critical case study where policy performed well despite the use of weak policy instruments, this paper analyzes whether policy capacity can have a positive independent impact on policy performance. The Danish program to increase the proportion of organic food served in public sector kitchens demonstrates that policy capacity can independently influence policy performance. It can compensate for the weakness of soft and indirect policy instruments and bring about policy performance that goes beyond what can be expected, given the limited ability of the instruments to stimulate behavioral change. A high level of capacity was achieved by drawing on resources possessed by interest groups. While interest groups’ and other private actors’ positive contribution to policy capacity is recognized, only a limited number of studies have analyzed how such actors contribute to capacity generation. Therefore, this paper applies a sectoral perspective in which policy capacity is understood as the ability to pool and coordinate relevant resources available within a policy sector.
Interest in policy feedback processes in energy transitions has grown rapidly in recent years. However, while it has provided interesting accounts of the mechanisms of stability or change, the policy feedback framework begs the question of why policy feedback dynamics vary so widely across cases. Existing accounts have tended to focus on the influence of ideas on policy design and on the role of interest groups. By contrast, the role of background institutional context in shaping policy feedback processes has been understudied. In this article, I develop a framework for identifying relevant types of institution that potentially shape policy feedback across different analytical stages of the feedback cycle. This approach is illustrated through the example of support policies for solar PV, where it is argued that a relatively small set of political, political economy and social institutions are likely to be important. The argument is then applied through a comparison of the evolution of solar PV policy in the UK and Germany, and the role of institutional context in explaining divergent policy pathways.
A country's preparedness to face crises is a multidimensional competence that depends on several attributes (economic factors, governance features, infrastructure and institutional endowments). This paper proposes a new approach to rank countries based on their degree of preparedness to deal with large-scale crises. The measured characteristics of countries have made it possible to compile an index of preparedness to face shocks and, therefore, predict their performance against the COVID-19 health crisis to verify the relevance of the proposed composite index. Fortunately, it appears that countries with a high degree of preparedness according to our aggregate index were able to respond adequately and effectively to this crisis. This is reflected in a lower mortality rate and more administered tests.
How is policy change possible if policy entrepreneurs’ cognition, rationality and identity are conditioned by the very policy institutions they wish to change? To solve this paradox of embedded agency, we must avoid either voluntarism that inflates the role of actors to change policies as by existing policy entrepreneurship applications, or determinism whereby policy changes are decided by contextual forces. Instead, drawing on institutional theory, critical realism sees structures, institutions, and actions that constitute policy dynamics as existing in separate yet intertwined reality domains: structures (e.g., social relationships), and institutions (e.g., formal rules and norms such as institutional logics) in the Real domain, enable and constrain policy actors’ navigation of their social environments; the Actual domain represents the level at which events (actions) happen, as these actors constantly interpret varied institutions to adjust their structurally embedded actions when pursuing policy changes that can be observed in the Empirical domain. Put differently, structures and institutions are mechanisms in the Real domain that affect individual practices and events in the Actual domain, and only some of these events are realized in the Empirical domain as policy changes. We empirically illustrate this critical realist approach with a Chinese example on health care reform.
Scientific evidence has become increasingly important for the decision-making processes in contemporary democracies. On the one hand, research dealing with the utilization of scientific knowledge in the political process has pointed out that decision-makers learn from evidence to improve policies to solve problems. On the other, scholars have underlined that actors learn from evidence to support their political interests regardless of how it affects the policy problem. One conventional insight from the policy learning literature is that higher salience of a policy issue makes it much less likely that decision-makers use evidence in an “unpolitical” way. Nevertheless, only few studies have investigated systematically how differences regarding issue salience between policy fields impact on how decision-makers learn from evaluations at the individual level. Using multilevel regression models on data from a legislative survey in Switzerland, this paper shows that salience and technical complexity of policy issues do not automatically lead to less policy learning and to more political learning from policy evaluations. Nevertheless, this article’s empirical analysis also points out that issue salience increases policy learning from evaluations if the policy issue is technically complex. Our findings contribute to research on policy learning and evidence-based policy making by linking the literature on policy evaluation and learning, which helps analyzing the micro-foundations of learning in public policy and administration.
This article proposes rethinking democratic conflict management by acknowledging the increasingly important role policy plays in it. As the debate on the health of democracy intensifies, research on how democracies manage and absorb political and societal conflicts becomes broadly relevant. Existing theories and perspectives view conflict management through the lens of elections and other institutional mechanisms, or they examine the social and economic preconditions for successful conflict management while inadequately understanding how policies contribute to conflict management. The article develops a theoretical framework that allows for the analysis of how policies' material and interpretive effects influence societal conflicts and thereby strengthen (or weaken) democracy. While the article focuses on hypothesis-generation rather than hypothesis-testing, it draws on a large variety of policy and case examples to corroborate and illustrate the theoretical expectations embodied in the framework. Insights into policy's role in democratic conflict management expand our understanding of the challenges to democracy in the twenty-first century and create new possibilities for comparative, policy-focused research into what makes democracy work.
Policy conflict is gaining attention in policy studies. In this paper, we explore the relation between emotional storylines and policy conflict escalation in the case of the Dutch gasquakes in the north of the country. Based on a longitudinal analysis of emotional storylines in 1308 newspaper articles and additional empirical data we find that Dutch subnational governmental actors as well as citizen action groups discursively express emotional storylines about anxiety/fear, anger, and contempt in relation to discursive expressions of trustworthiness/distrust. Over time, specific combinations of these emotional storylines shape the interpretation of the problem and point toward responsible actors. Also the way in which specific sequences of emotional storylines develop (particularly from fear to anger) suggests a discursive escalation. In addition, discursive escalation can be found in the increased intensity of specific emotional storylines. We conclude that the combinations, sequencing and increasing intensity of the emotional storylines suggest a process of emotionally expressed escalation, which we have only just begun to explore.
The policy decision-making process in the aftermath of a crisis is a dynamic and iterative process involving circumstances that are emotionally convoluted rather than stable and rationally predictable. This research addresses the following question: To what extent do citizens’ fears and their perceptions of governmental responsiveness affect citizens’ confidence in the government’s disaster management capacity? By building a structural equation model, we also analyze the dual mediating effects of collective action by citizens. We find that citizens’ collective action mediates the effects of both these factors—citizen fear levels and governmental responsiveness—on citizens’ confidence in the government’s disaster management capacity. We test our hypotheses, using the 2014 Sewol Ferry accident case in South Korea, a striking disaster caused by human error resulting in the loss of 304 lives. This analysis offers practical lessons for governments on how best to engage citizens’ voices in the policy-making process. When citizens feel listened to and empathized with by their government, they become more supportive of the government’s recovery efforts. Collective action by citizens plays a critical role in channeling citizens’ feelings and communicating their feelings and opinions to the government while decreasing their fear level, which, in turn, increases citizens’ confidence in the government’s disaster management capacity.
The effective conservation and promotion of biodiversity requires its integration into a wide range of sectoral policies. For this to happen, the issue must receive attention across policy sectors. Yet, we know little about how attention to the issue evolves over time and across sectors. Drawing from the literature on environmental policy integration/mainstreaming and policy process theories, we develop competing hypotheses, expecting either increasing or fluctuating attention to the biodiversity issue. We tested the hypotheses using the case of Swiss politics between 1999 and 2018. Applying a combination of computational methods, we analyze the content of a comprehensive collection of policy documents ( n ≈ 440,000) attributed to 20 policy sectors. Comparing the sectors, we find that (1) a persistent increase in attention is the exception, (2) if there is an increase in attention, it is likely to be temporary, and (3) the most common pattern is that of invariant attention over time. Biodiversity integration—if it does happen at all—tends to occur in cycles rather than in steady long-term shifts. This implies that the conservation of biodiversity does not follow the cross-sectoral nature of the problem, but is subject to the dynamics of "politics," where actors, because of limited resources, engage with (aspects of) an issue only for a certain amount of time.
Regions around the world employ cluster-based policies as part of their industrial, innovation and development policy mixes. They have become a key tool in smart specialisation strategies and are increasingly used to address societal challenges. Given their popularity and longevity, there is significant demand to better measure and understand the impacts of cluster policies. Yet the diversity of cluster policies employed in different regional competitiveness policy mixes, a complex effect logic and a variety of (mostly intangible) outcomes, and few recognised norms for guiding cluster policy evaluation all hamper a more holistic understanding of their patterns of effects and broader impacts. There lacks a common frame to guide cluster policy evaluation. This paper reviews international evidence on the effects of cluster policy programmes from academic and policy literature, which is then used as an input into a co-creation process with groups of cluster policymakers, practitioners and researchers. The result is a proposal for a generalised framework of effects for cluster policies to support the structuring of cluster policy evaluations and strengthen international policy learning possibilities.
In June 2018, President Trump directed the development of a sixth branch of the US Armed Forces—the Space Force—whose primary mission is to enhance the space operations of the USA and its allies. In this paper, we utilize the Narrative Policy b Framework (NPF) to examine legislative meso-level narratives surrounding the advocacy for and in opposition to the establishment of a US Space Force. After reviewing the literature on the NPF and US space-defense policy, we conduct a content analysis to discern the policy narratives within congressional testimonies encompassing the development of the Space Force. Included in this content analysis is a unique contribution to the NPF literature’s conceptualization of plot. Leveraging these data, we describe and analyze the policy narratives produced by Republicans and Democrats. Our main findings highlight significant partisan differences in the construction of narratives on the US Space Force, including contrasting viewpoints on the role of the Space Force, the setting of space as a domain of war, and military cooperation with commercial and international groups. We conclude with a discussion of the substantive implications of our findings, including the potential impacts of partisan narratives on the future role of the Space Force. Finally, we propose a new route to improve reliability in the study of NPF plots using a two-dimensional orientation to plot: policy outcome and time.
The question of how scientists should engage in policymaking has spurred both pragmatic and philosophical debates for decades. Scant empirical research addressing how experts perceive the different roles scientists might play complicates efforts to resolve the debate. Further, these literatures focus on Western developed nations, largely ignoring the efforts of governments worldwide to build science advisory capacity. In a survey of global legislative experts, we investigate their preferences and rationales for how scientists can be helpful to policy processes in legislatures, testing for effects of expertise and national development on role choice. The majority (79.2%) of respondents-science advice researchers, providers of scientific information to government, and users of scientific information within government-said that scientists should work closely with policymakers and others to integrate scientific results in policy decisions. The next most preferred role was that of reporting and interpreting results (53.0%). The primary reasons the respondents gave for scientists' engagement were to improve decision-making (40.5%) and communication of science, whether through (two-way) dialogues (34.2%) or (one-way) explanations (18.4%). Few said that scientists should advocate for specific policies (18.6%). Respondents from developing nations were more accepting of 'advocacy' roles and less supportive of scientists that solely publish in academic journals than experts in developed countries. These experts' preference for highly integrative work by scientists in policy suggests a global re-envisioning of the relationship between the science and policy communities even within highly political contexts. Institutional support from government and academia will be required to support these shifts.
Much research within the punctuated equilibrium framework demonstrated that policy agendas are invariably punctuated, due in part to cognitive and institutional frictions that constitute barriers to change in attention. While the bulk of past scholarship explored the extent to which institutional friction varies by organizational design, little scholarly attention has been devoted to the empirical examination of the cognitive aspect of disproportionate information processing. In an attempt to close this gap, I utilize a newly available dataset that codes nearly a million Americans' responses to the 'most important problem' question from 1939 to 2015 to analyze the distribution of annual changes in the policy priorities of the American public. Drawing on the punctuated equilibrium theory literature, I argue and show that punctuations in the public's policy priorities are more severe and frequent than those in institutional agendas. These results emphasize the need for a more subtle treatment of disproportionate information processing within the public, calling for relaxing the implicit assumption that cognitive friction is constant within organizations and across issues.
Over the last two decades, the design practice has been expanding to the public sphere to generate solutions for public challenges. In particular, the reflections on the design practice of public sector innovation (PSI) units, working in or with governments, are increasingly contributing to a growing body of literature attempting to characterise the practice in policy making. Although scholars conclude that design’s significant contribution in policy refers to the implementation of public services and programs, there is also an urgent advocacy for a deeper study of the nature of design practices within earlier stages of policy processes addressing more specifically policy proposals and reforms. As part of a broader investigation, this paper seeks to shed light to this matter by identifying design-led activities and methods of PSI units in the policy making process and positioning them in the stages of the policy cycle. This research examines academic, grey literature and web content to uncover and position design activities of 46 PSI units from different continents in a policy cycle model based on Howlett, Ramesh and Perl (2009). Our work confirms that most design activities develop in the implementation stage rather than in early stages of the policy process. While design interventions are growing within policy formulation and agenda-setting stages, few of them were identified in the stage of policy evaluation. Decision-making stage remains purely political. This research may serve to a further understanding of the design practice and its potential contribution to policy making in the future.
This paper explores political drivers and policy process of the reform of the framework for Artificial Intelligence regulation and governance in the European Union (EU). Since 2017, the EU has been developing an integrated policy to tighten control and to ensure consumer protection and fundamental rights. This policy reform is theoretically interesting, raising the question of which conceptual approaches better explain it, and it is also empirically relevant, addressing the link between risk regulation and digital market integration in Europe. This paper explores the policy reform mainly by using two case study methods—process tracing and congruence procedure—using a variety of primary and secondary sources. It evaluates the analytical leverage of three theoretical frameworks and a set of derived testable hypotheses concerning the co-evolution of global economic competition, institutional structure, and policy preferences of domestic actors in shaping incremental approach to AI regulation in the EU. It is argued that all three are key drivers shaping the reform and explain the various stages of the policymaking process, namely problem definition, agenda-setting, and decision-making, as well as the main features of the outcome.
As part of Harold D. Lasswell’s policy sciences, the decisions functions emerged to explore and understand comparative policy processes. The decision functions specified different categories of purposes, roles, and responsibilities performed, to various extents and ways, by all governments. These included intelligence, recommendation, prescription, invocation, application, appraisal, and termination. Additionally, the decision functions were not necessarily sequenced or in any government unit. Over time, the decision functions morphed in meaning and use, eventually supplanted by the policy cycle. This commentary digs up and polishes the decision functions and argues for their inclusion in contemporary policy process theories and research. We end with new questions and paths for advancing knowledge and contributing to Lasswell’s vision in realizing greater human dignity.
The European Union’s 2030 climate and energy package introduced fundamental changes compared to its 2020 predecessor. These changes included a stronger focus on the internal market and an increased emphasis on technology-neutral decarbonization while simultaneously de-emphasizing the renewables target. This article investigates whether changes in domestic policy strategies of leading member states in European climate policy preceded the observed changes in EU policy. Disaggregating strategic change into changes in different elements (goals, objectives, instrumental logic), allows us to go beyond analyzing the relative prioritization of different goals, and to analyze how policy requirements for reaching those goals were dynamically redefined over time. To this end, we introduce a new method, which based on insights from social network analysis, enables us to systematically trace those strategic chances. We find that shifts in national strategies of the investigated member states preceded the shift in EU policy. In particular, countries reframed their understanding of supply security, and pushed for the internal electricity market also as a security measure to balance fluctuating renewables. Hence, the increasing focus on markets and market integration in the European 2030 package echoed the increasingly central role of the internal market for electricity supply security in national strategies. These findings also highlight that countries dynamically redefined their goals relative to the different phases of the energy transition.
This article uses the concept of policy inaction to analyse data about the implementation of policy evaluations and public inquiries. Consequently, it produces outputs for two audiences. For those interested in policy learning and policy implementation the analysis identifies four ‘moments’ in which forms of inaction can influence the implementation of learned lessons in positive and negative ways. For those interested in policy inaction, these moments speak to a series of calls for further research about this emerging concept, which relate to the methodological challenges of knowing inaction, the need to explain how and why governments offload policy, and the need to explore the functional and dysfunctional effects of inaction. Taken together, these outputs contribute knowledge directly to three areas of the policy sciences: agenda management studies, policy implementation studies and, more broadly, efforts to understand policy learning.
We know relatively little about the conditions that encourage people to jump into the political fray as policy entrepreneurs, advocates who devote substantial time, energy, and resources to campaigning for a policy goal. This paper aims to fill that gap by investigating the catalysts of policy entrepreneurship in municipalities across the State of New York, where between 2008 and 2012, hundreds of local jurisdictions passed measures opposing or supporting high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking). These local policy actions were often enthusiastically encouraged and, in some cases, vociferously opposed, by enterprising advocates. I propose a threat-centered theory of policy entrepreneurship, emphasizing the role of loss aversion in pushing actors toward advocacy. The empirical analysis shows that oppositional advocacy within a polity draws would-be policy entrepreneurs into battle.
There is a rapidly developing literature on risks that threaten the whole of humanity, or a large part of it. Discussion is increasingly turning to how such risks can be governed. This paper arises from a study of those involved the governance of risks from emerging technologies, examining the perceptions of global catastrophic risk within the relevant global policymaking community. Those who took part were either civil servants working for the UK government, U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and the European Commission, or cognate members of civil society groups and the private sector. Analysis of interviews identified four major themes: Scepticism; Realism; Influence; and Governance outside of Government. These themes provide evidence for the value of conceptualising the governance of global catastrophic risk as a unified challenge. Furthermore, they highlight the range of agents involved in governance of emerging technology and give reason to value reforms carried out sub-nationally.
As academic and political interest in citizen participation and democratic innovations is growing, the question of their impact on public policy remains essential to assess their genuine contribution to the normative project of democratization. Impact assessments of consultative participatory mechanisms are commonly conducted with a congruency approach-a desk-based research method which assesses impact based on the textual correspondence between a citizen-created idea and public policy documents. This method, however, lacks reliability and uniformity, and this paper therefore seeks to standardize its application and ways to improve the accuracy of its results by proposing two methodological add-ons. First, a sequential impact matrix that considers the preferences of decision-makers before a consultative participatory mechanism to see the extent to which decision-makers take up citizen ideas that align with or diverge from their own agenda. Second, a mixed method that combines a congruency approach with interviews of actors involved in the follow-up of the participatory process to balance their experiences with the congruency approach's main findings. The variants of the congruency approach are then applied to a deliberative minipublic-the citizen panel 'Brussels-Make Your Mobility'. This analysis shows how these methodological strategies alter the impact assessment's results, and its findings suggest that the use of a sequential impact matrix with a mixed method not only produces an accurate and reliable measurement but also generates valuable insights into the diffuse ways in which minipublics can exert substantial influences on the institutional structures and the political decision-making.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11077-022-09450-w.
This article questions the use of morality frames and gender stereotypes in discoursing about abortion. The morality policy literature puts abortion forward as the paradigmatic example of its object of investigation. Yet, as heated as abortion debates can get, the issue is not always manifest in the spotlight. We argue salience of the issue depends on active politicization through morality frames. This contribution aims to further the understanding of policy (de)moralization by starting from a gap in the morality policy literature. Morality itself, although fundamental, remains under-theorized in the morality policy literature and is hardly ever operationalized using evidence-based theory. Instead, the positivist school in the morality policy literature assumes morality policy derives its qualification from referring to substantive first-principles, that is, to innate characteristics of a policy. Although the constructivist school holds morality policy is better understood as morality frames, they tacitly build on the definition provided by the positivists. This definition erroneously assumes that morality remains stable for different issues across cultures and over time. We take up a structuralist constructivist approach that shifts focus from the content of morality policy onto the form in which it appears. Abolishing the binary distinction between morality and non-morality renders each political issue, theoretically, a latent morality policy. We demonstrate our proposed approach benefits both the literature on framing and on morality policy by investigating a key abortion debate. Our results suggest (conservative) opponents use immorality frames, whereas (progressive) advocates deploy morality frames. We conclude by highlighting avenues for future research.
COVID-19 has caused 100s of millions of infections and millions of deaths worldwide, overwhelming health and economic capacities in many countries and at multiple scales. The immediacy and magnitude of this crisis has resulted in government officials, practitioners and applied scholars turning to reflexive learning exercises to generate insights for managing the reverberating effects of this disease as well as the next inevitable pandemic. We contribute to both tasks by assessing COVID-19 as a “super wicked” problem denoted by four features we originally formulated to describe the climate crisis: time is running out, no central authority, those causing the problem also want to solve it, and policies irrationally discount the future (Levin et al., 2007; Levin et al., 2009; Levin et al., 2012). Doing so leads us to identify three overarching imperatives critical for pandemic management. First, similar to requirements to address the climate crisis, policy makers must establish and maintain durable policy objectives. Second, in contrast to climate, management responses must always allow for swift changes in policy settings and calibrations given rapid and evolving knowledge about a particular disease’s epidemiology. Third, analogous to, but with swifter effects than climate, wide-ranging global efforts, if well designed, will dramatically reduce domestic costs and resource requirements by curbing the spread of the disease and/or fostering relevant knowledge for managing containment and eradication. Accomplishing these tasks requires building the analytic capacity for engaging in reflexive anticipatory policy design exercises aimed at maintaining, or building, life-saving thermostatic institutions at the global and domestic levels.
Complexity is inherent to the policy processes and to more and more domains such as environment or social policy. Complexity produces unexpected and counterintuitive effects, in particular, the phenomenon of policy regimes falling short of expectations while made by refined policies. This paper addresses this phenomenon by investigating the process of policy integration and its nonlinearities in the long run. We consider that the increase in the number of policies unexpectedly impacts the policy coherence within a policy regime. We argue that, depending on the degree of policy interactions, this impact varies in direction and intensity over time, which explains nonlinearities in integration. The impact turns negative when the regime is made of numerous policies, which favors non-coordinated policy interactions. Finally, the negative impact prevents further integration as stated by the Institutional Complexity Trap hypothesis and explains the contemporary paradoxical phenomenon of ineffective policy regimes made of refined policies. Empirically, we draw on a relational analysis of policies in the Swiss flood risk policy regime from 1848 to 2017. We study the co-evolution of the number of policies and of their de facto interlinkages, i.e., the co-regulations of a common issue. Findings support that the Institutional Complexity Trap is a structural and long-term dynamic punctuated by periods of policy learning and policy selection. We identify three main phases in the evolution of the regime: the start (1848–1874), the development (1874–1991), and the Institutional Complexity Trap (since 1991).
The increasing international use of consulting firms in public administration has attracted warnings against diminishing policy capability, accountability and transparency. Whilst significant debates and multiple tensions exist, this article introduces an innovative Australian model which provides scope to harness and balance the strengths of the contributions of consultants and consultancy firms to improve government policy capacity. We argue that advantages exist for engaging Tier 1 consultants provided the conditions are right. Moving past binary debates about whether or not consultants should be used in the public sector, we call for a more nuanced understanding and discussion about how to better leverage expertise, comparative analysis and contestability. Using Wu et al.’s (Policy Soc 34(3–4):165–171, 2015) framework, our pragmatic and sophisticated approach shifts theory and practice on the use of consultants to ensure clarity in the rationale of seeking external advice in order to build or improve policy capacity.
Digital technologies can be important to policy-makers and public servants, as these technologies can increase infrastructure performance and reduce environmental impacts. For example, utilizing data from sensors in sewer systems can improve their management, which in turn may result in better surface water quality. Whether such big data from sensors is utilized is, however, not only a technical issue, but also depends on different types of social and institutional conditions. Our article identifies individual, organizational, and institutional barriers at the level of sub-states that hinder the evaluation of data from sewer systems. We employ fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) to compare 23 Swiss sub-states and find that two barriers at different levels can each hinder data evaluation on their own. More specifically, either a lack of vision at the individual level or a lack of resources at the organizational level hinder the evaluation of data. Findings suggest that taking into account different levels is crucial for understanding digital transformation in public organizations.
This article explores the relationship between policy narratives and the design of the Italian border management and external migration control regime in the last two decades. First, drawing from the theory of social construction and policy design and through a qualitative application of the Narrative Policy Framework, the article traces the evolution of narratives developed by key actors in government. Second, it investigates the design of the Italian externalization policy. Empirical material is drawn from government documents and decision-makers' parliamentary interventions, press conferences, speeches, newspaper interviews and op-eds. The evidence shows that the dominant narratives have remained constant over time. Humanitarian rhetoric has been mobilized to justify and legitimize the implementation of security measures through bilateral agreements signed with African countries. The implications of such a design are relevant in that it poses serious concerns in terms of respect for migrants' human rights. Overall, the article offers new insights into the empirical investigation of policy narratives and sheds light on the role of narratives in the social construction of migration policy design.
The overuse of fertilizers in agriculture and their entry into freshwater has many negative impacts on biodiversity and poses problems for drinking water resources in Germany. In response to exceeding levels of nitrate concentrations in groundwater in parts of the country, an intense public dispute evolved and a significant policy change in fertilizer regulation occurred in 2020. Based on the German case of agricultural water pollution, this study demonstrates in an innovative way how discourse network analysis is a fruitful method for the integrated study of actor coalitions and their use of narrative strategies in public debate. Theoretically, the study draws on the narrative policy framework (NPF) to explain how actor coalitions use narrative strategies to attempt to influence policymaking on water pollution by agricultural activities. The empirical analysis builds on newspaper articles and press releases disseminated between 2010 and 2020. The results demonstrate how two opposing actor coalitions with congruent policy beliefs formed in the struggle over fertilizer regulation. These not only diverged in their policy beliefs but also differed in their use of narrative strategies to try to expand or contain the policy issue. More precisely, the coalitions adapted their narratives over time in response to changes in the likelihood to win or lose. Furthermore, the results suggest the coalition in favor of stricter fertilizer regulation was more sophisticated in its effort to mobilize specific target groups. Overall, the article provides a valuable contribution to the literature on the NPF by combining research on coalition formation and policy narratives.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11077-021-09439-x.
Environmental threats increasingly entail important risks from government responses. In considering the risks of a new vector-borne disease, for example, decision-makers must also grapple with potential risks from responses such as the aerial spraying of pesticides. In communicating about these complex risks, public officials often choose different “frames” that promote different conceptualizations of the issue. Yet prior research has paid limited attention to how public officials frame the related risks of the environmental threat and the public response. This paper starts to fill that gap by conducting a content analysis of statements by public officials regarding risks from the threat of a local outbreak of the Zika virus in South Florida in 2016, as well as risks from the response of aerial pesticide spraying. Based on limited prior research, we hypothesize that public officials are likely to have adopted a “risk maximization” frame that stressed the high risks from exposure to Zika, but a “risk trade-off” frame when discussing aerial spraying. In actuality, we find that officials strongly favored a “reassurance” frame that downplayed both types of risks. Based on this analysis, we suggest framing strategies for disease outbreaks and other threats with potentially risky government responses may vary significantly depending on local contexts and that the South Florida experience was a missed opportunity to test the strategy of trade-off framing.
Government agencies responsible for policy implementation have expertise on policy practicability, efficiency and effectiveness, and knowledge which is provided to policymakers as feedback. However, we know very little about the feedback dynamics in which implementing agencies provide different types of feedback with the intention that it is used by policymakers, and the strategic decisions underlying these dynamics. This article connects the literature on policy feedback and knowledge use to develop a typology of implementation feedback which can account for these strategic actions. While existing distinctions between positive and negative feedback lead to confusion when applied to implementation feedback, our typology moves beyond this confusion, by classifying implementation feedback on the basis of two dimensions: preferences of implementing agencies and whether feedback is in response an agenda for change, or existing policy instruments. To illustrate the typology, we look at implementation feedback surrounding the post-2013 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. We find that implementing agencies engage predominantly in problem-solving and mitigating types of implementation feedback, which are the types of feedback most likely to be used instrumentally by policymakers. Moreover, role perception of implementing agencies limits feedback focused on agenda removal, which is more politically sensitive and contested. These insights are important for our understanding of policy feedback on the level of policy instruments and settings. Moreover, future research can use this typology to structure feedback by other actors.
This article examines policy experimentation in the context of policy learning in Canadian cultural policy. Despite the attraction of experimentation to encourage learning and thus improved policy outcomes, much of the literature on experimentation does not give sufficient attention to how it is operationalized in practice. Drawing from a novel dataset based on interviews with key actors, this article focuses on how the governance of experimentation impacts learning resulting from experimentation. Findings ultimately demonstrate that while learning occurred, it was constrained overall by a hierarchical, top-down approach to experimentation. Lessons from this case study can therefore be useful for both policy scholars and public administrations embarking on experimentation or other types of public sector innovation in Canada and beyond.
Think tanks are expected to cut through the prevailing short-term government agenda of the day, and to inject long-term perspectives and research-based expertise into policy debates. In order to do so, they need to attract media attention to themselves in connection with those issue areas in which they have expertise, even if government is focusing elsewhere. Yet, existing studies of media attention among organized interests have thus far ignored the issue context. We argue that sinking costs into research in specific policy areas pays off for think tanks by funnelling more media attention towards them. This is notwithstanding the importance of governments’ own issue agendas, which, if a think tank’s expertise aligns with them, further raises media attention. We substantiate these claims with a content analysis of news coverage of 62 Australian think tanks in 19 different policy issue areas. The results broadly support our argument and contribute to studies of policy advisory systems, organized interests, and group-media relations.
The design principles of institutions that visibly and significantly affect citizens' lives are likely to be politically salient. Popular support for these principles is in turn crucial for institutional viability and effectiveness. Transboundary pandemics are a case in point. Understanding citizens' preferences regarding the design of international alliances set up to mass-produce and distribute vaccines is likely to determine citizens' subsequent cooperation with vaccination campaigns. This study explores Germans' preferences for international COVID-19 vaccine alliance design principles. We conducted a conjoint experiment at a recurring cognitive moment in many pandemics' cycles, between the initial outbreak and a more devastating but still-unknown second wave, when infection rates were very low, yet no policy solutions had been developed. We analyzed preferences regarding four building blocks: (1) alliance composition (size; EU-centrism), (2) alliance distribution rules (joining cost; vaccine allocation), (3) vaccine nationalism (cost per German household; coverage in Germany) and (4) vaccine producer confidence (origin; type). Distribution rules, political ideology and personal perceptions of pandemic threat matter little. But a larger alliance size and dominant EU-country composition increase alliance support. And vaccine nationalism is key: support increases with both lower costs and larger coverage for own-nation citizens. Moreover, support goes down for Chinese and American producers and increases for Swiss and especially own-nation producers. In sum, a realist and technocratic outlook is warranted at the cognitive stage in pandemic cycles when no solutions have been found, yet the worst already seems to be over, as national self-interest reigns supreme in popular attitudes.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11077-021-09435-1.
This paper investigates time variations in the implementation of legislative requests by the Swiss government. Combining the literature on executive–legislative relations with findings from implementation research, we focus on the procedural level and argue that implementation delays can occur because the government does not want to, cannot or should not implement faster. We test these mechanisms using a unique database, which enables us to analyse a systematic collection of all legislative requests that have been approved between the parliament’s 2003 winter session and its 2018 spring session. Our results show that the considerable variation in the time needed for the legislative mandates’ implementation is mostly related to the Swiss government’s inability to transpose faster, i.e. to factors like highly busy administrative offices or complex and controversial issues. In contrast, there is no support for the ideas that the government “shall not” or “does not want to” transpose faster.
This contribution investigates how combinations of instruments, often called policy mixes, enhance policy learning processes at different levels. It analyzes the European Union’s (EU) Covenant of Mayors (CoM) that is underpinned by a set of learning instruments, to promote local action for sustainable energy and climate. The piece offers an original framework to explore whether and how the Covenant enhances learning at the level of European institutions and among local governments. Drawing on an extensive documentary review and elite interviews in four countries (Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK), the analysis shows that the CoM instrument mix has enhanced certain elements of learning within the actors leading the Covenant as well as many of the local governments within and outside the EU, but only if certain conditions operate, such as political leadership, individual motivation and knowledge and regional coordination mechanisms.
Environmental problems are usually not tackled with path-departing policies but rather with incrementally adjusted or unchanged policies. One way to address incremental change is the policy feedback approach, which initially focussed on self-reinforcing feedback and path-dependency. Today, self-undermining feedback is also increasingly being studied, centring on agency and change. However, it is unclear precisely how actors use power in policy feedback processes. Therefore, this study applied a power perspective and the policy arrangement approach to a case study of the reorientation towards a circular economy in Dutch wastewater policy between 2008 and 2018, which resulted in incremental instead of fundamental policy change. Here it was observed that self-undermining feedback was generated from 2008 onwards but the balance quickly shifted back to self-reinforcing feedback, indicating that the analysed power struggles led to incremental change. These dynamics resemble a shift from the so-called paths and forks (i.e. fork in the road) towards the boomerang pattern (i.e. returning to its original position) of policy change. The patterns are explained by focussing on powerful actors that resist change through the use of incremental reforms, the ongoing struggles of these actors in facilitating self-reinforcing feedback and the role of interpretation in using feedback as a resource. Overall, this study provides a nuanced understanding of incremental change by directing attention to the power struggles of actors in policy feedback processes. For practitioners, the study emphasises the importance of power struggles in enabling a circular economy.
Policy design has returned as a central topic in public policy research. An important area of policy design study deals with effectively attaining desired policy outcomes by aligning goals and means to achieve policy design fit. So far, only a few empirical studies have explored the relationship between policy design fit and effectiveness. In this paper, we adopt the multilevel framework for policy design to determine which conditions of policy design fit—i.e., goal coherence, means consistency, and congruence of goals and means across policy levels—are necessary and/or sufficient for policy design effectiveness in the context of policy integration. To this end, we performed a qualitative comparative analysis of Dutch regional transport planning including all twelve provinces. Outcomes show no condition is necessary and two combinations of conditions are sufficient for effectiveness. The first sufficient combination confirms what the literature suggests, namely that policy design fit results in policy design effectiveness. The second indicates that the combination goal incoherence and incongruence of goals and means is sufficient for policy design effectiveness. An in-depth interpretation of this counterintuitive result leads to the conclusion that for achieving policy integration the supportive relationship between policy design fit and policy design effectiveness is less straightforward as theory suggests. Instead, results indicate there are varying degrees of coherence, consistency, and congruence that affect effectiveness in different ways. Furthermore, outcomes reveal that under specific circumstances a policy design may be effective in promoting desired policy integration even if it is incoherent, inconsistent, and/or incongruent.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to impose major restrictions on individual freedom in order to stop the spread of the virus. With the successful development of a vaccine, these restrictions are likely to become obsolete-on the condition that people get vaccinated. However, parts of the population have reservations against vaccination. While this is not a recent phenomenon, it might prove a critical one in the context of current attempts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the task of designing policies suitable for attaining high levels of vaccination deserves enhanced attention. In this study, we use data from the Eurobarometer survey fielded in March 2019. They show that 39% of Europeans consider vaccines to cause the diseases which they should protect against, that 50% believe vaccines have serious side effects, that 32% think that vaccines weaken the immune system, and that 10% do not believe vaccines are tested rigorously before authorization. We find that-even when controlling for important individual-level factors-ideological extremism on both ends of the spectrum explains skepticism of vaccination. We conclude that policymakers must either politicize the issue or form broad alliances among parties and societal groups in order to increase trust in and public support for the vaccines in general and for vaccines against COVID-19 in particular, since the latter were developed in a very short time period and resulted-in particular in case of the AstraZeneca vaccine-in reservations because of the effectiveness and side effects of the new vaccines.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11077-021-09428-0.
This article explores why governments do not respond to public compliance problems in a timely manner with appropriate instruments, and the consequences of their failure to do so. Utilising a case study of Italian vaccination policy, the article considers counterfactuals and the challenges of governing health policy in an age of disinformation. It counterposes two methods of governing vaccination compliance: discipline, which uses public institutions to inculcate the population with favourable attitudes and practices, and modulation, which uses access to public institutions as a form of control. The Italian government ineffectively employed discipline for a number of years. Epistemological and organisational constraints stymied its efforts to tackle a significant childhood vaccination compliance problem. With a loss of control over the information environment, vaccinations were not served well by exogenous crises, the sensationalism of the news cycle and online misinformation. Hampered by austerity, lack of capacity and epistemic shortcomings, the Italian government did not protect the public legitimacy of the vaccination programme. Instead of employing communications to reassure a hesitant population, they focused on systemic and delivery issues, until it was too late to do anything except make vaccinations mandatory (using modulation). The apparent short-term success of this measure in generating population compliance does not foreclose the need for ongoing governance of vaccine confidence through effective discipline. This is evident for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with many Italians still indicating that they would not accept a vaccine despite the devastation that the disease has wrought throughout their country.
Although the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) is frequently used to explain agenda setting and decision making across a variety of policy domains, it has been criticized for failing to contribute to theoretically rigorous and empirically falsifiable policy scholarship. This study argues that by explicitly attending to the institutional context in which a policy process occurs—a previously under-articulated aspect of the MSF—scholars can better develop and test theory about the framework’s components under delimited conditions. This approach is demonstrated through the development and analysis of a case study of transnational policymaking in the Colorado River Delta. By attending to how key MSF variables interact with features of the process’s collaborative institutional context, this study identifies case-specific drivers of policy change and develops broader theory about the mechanisms by which these factors may influence policymaking in similar institutional settings.
This article seeks to critique and extend recent work in the policy sciences, by Maor in particular, on disproportionate policy making—including policy overreaction and underreaction. While the disproportionate policy making thesis does help address assumptions that something is amiss in the policy process by capturing an imbalance between policy problems and the interventions to address them, we argue that it does not pay sufficient attention to politics. We present a heuristic which includes political perception of both programme and political threats. Our core argument is that much of what is considered disproportionate policy making, can in fact also be considered proportionate politics. Our analysis paves the way for a more holistic and political understanding of policy dynamics.
The governance of several cross-cutting challenges, such as food security, climate change, and sustainable development, calls for integrative policy approaches. However, efforts to better theorize the drivers of integration beyond listing explanatory factors remain weak. Viewing integration as a process of policy change for dealing with complex problems, this study argues that policy integration analysis can benefit from an advocacy coalition approach (ACF) to address this theoretical gap. It illustrates the analytical framework by empirically investigating the drivers of policy (dis)integration in Brazil’s subnational water policy introduced in the 2010s. The level of conflict between coalitions, adjustment of policy beliefs, coordination within and across coalitions, and existence of venues for interaction and policy-oriented learning were presented as factors that can foster or hinder the integration of public policies. Moreover, the study discusses the potential to acknowledge in ACF the mechanisms for coordinating policy actors and instruments, which would facilitate the analysis of the policy processes of cooperation. It also demonstrates that recent droughts in Northeast Brazil have been increasingly related to the local impacts of climate change, contributing to reframing water management as a cross-sectoral climate and water governance issue. The analysis was based on a literature review, semi-structured interviews, and social network analysis.
Policy learning can alter the perceptions of both the seriousness and the causes of a policy problem, thus also altering the perceived need to do something about the problem. This then allows for the informed weighing of different policy options. Taking a social network perspective, we argue that the role of social influence as a driver of policy learning has been overlooked in the literature. Network research has shown that normatively laden belief change is likely to occur through complex contagion—a process in which an actor receives social reinforcement from more than one contact in its social network. We test the applicability of this idea to policy learning using node-level network regression models on a unique longitudinal policy network survey dataset concerning the Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative in Brazil, Indonesia, and Vietnam. We find that network connections explain policy learning in Indonesia and Vietnam, where the policy subsystems are collaborative, but not in Brazil, where the level of conflict is higher and the subsystem is more established. The results suggest that policy learning is more likely to result from social influence and complex contagion in collaborative than in conflictual settings.
Using ex ante analysis to predict policy outcomes is common practice in the world of infrastructure planning. However, accounts of its uses and merits vary widely. Advisory agencies and government think tanks advocate this practice to prevent cost overruns, short-term decision-making and suboptimal choices. Academic studies on knowledge use, on the other hand, are critical of how knowledge can be used in decision making. Research has found that analyses often have no impact at all on decision outcomes or are mainly conducted to provide decision makers with the confidence to decide rather than with objective facts. In this paper, we use an ethnographic research design to understand how it is possible that the use of ex ante analysis can be depicted in such contradictory ways. We suggest that the substantive content of ex ante analysis plays a limited role in understanding its depictions and uses. Instead, it is the process of conducting an ex ante analysis itself that unfolds in such a manner that the analysis can be interpreted and used in many different and seemingly contradictory ways. In policy processes, ex ante analysis is like a chameleon, figuratively changing its appearance based on its environment.
Social policy scholarship assumes that left-wing governments favour a stronger public provision of services, while right-wing politics promote privatization, largely as a matter of ideology. Yet the findings on Canadian provinces’ market-based housing instruments suggest that alternative views are possible. Left-leaning governments introduced private delivery mechanisms for economic as well as non-economic reasons. The archival research and thematic analysis of interview responses with key actors (n = 56) suggest that the introduction of housing allowances in the policy toolbox largely results from bureaucratic initiatives, regardless of the party in power. Rather than political forces or advocacy by power interests, this policy change is mostly driven by considerations of equity and efficiency on the part of officials ‘muddling through’. The concept is revisited in the final discussion, where important strands of the privatization literature are challenged, as well as the political assumptions associated with the notion of users’ freedom.
Policy design studies have addressed the role of political and institutional limitations in formulating effective climate policies including renewable energy targets (RETs). However, it is still not entirely clear how and why these limitations result in policy designs that are incapable of staying on track to meet the overall goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. In order to deepen our understanding, this study introduces a friction perspective—one of the core components of the punctuated equilibrium theory used in policy change literature—and adopts it to the policy design process of energy transitions. This study argues that in cases where governments struggle to design stringent RETs, the level of friction between the elastic sub-coalitions (comprising bureaucrats and politicians) can shed light on policy design choices. By using a causal mechanism approach, the study developed several friction mechanisms to test how friction has been built and often dissolved, resulting in inadequate policy outcomes. The design process for setting Israel’s national RETs negotiated between 2015 and 2017 was used as a longitudinal case study to illustrate the role of friction and assess its impact. Unraveling how friction operates within policy design was found to be a good litmus test for the political feasibility of policy design choices. In other words, this study gives us a rudimentary blueprint of a “friction map” that, by tracing sequences of conflict and sequences of resolution, shows which particular design choices may generate more tension than others.
Effectiveness has been understood at three levels of analysis in the scholarly study of policy design. The first is at the systemic level indicating what entails effective formulation environments or spaces making them conducive to successful design. The second reflects more program level concerns, surrounding how policy tool portfolios or mixes can be effectively constructed to address complex policy objectives. The third is a more specific instrument level, focusing on what accounts for and constitutes the effectiveness of particular types of policy tools. Undergirding these three levels of analysis are comparative research concerns that concentrate on the capacities of government and political actors to devise and implement effective designs. This paper presents a systematic review of a largely scattered yet quickly burgeoning body of knowledge in the policy sciences, which broadly asks what capacities engender effectiveness at the multiple levels of policy design? The findings bring to light lessons about design effectiveness at the level of formulation spaces, policy mixes and policy programs. Further, this review points to a future research agenda for design studies that is sensitive to the relative orders of policy capacity, temporality and complementarities between the various dimensions of policy capacity.