Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PPA: Implementation and Evaluation

This seminar really should be title "Mind the Gap" which fits perfectly with the new overall course title "How to analyse the Ministry of Magic". Public Policy Analysis seminars offer a vast range of odd examples

Today we discussed the Implementation and Evaluation of policies and tools available to facilitate this. There are two approaches; Top-down and Bottom-up that cover the horizontal and vertical policy space.

The top-down approach is the one I am most familiar approach. A policy is formulated by a high-power (government? Ministry of Magic?) and then the orders for implementation are filtered down a change of command. This can lead to a Broken Telephone effect with information leaking at each step (Is it geeky to admit that I like the visual of heat equations that lose energy in each direction?). How can one improve this? Perhaps offer implementation incentives, improve communication channels. This is an ideal type, there is no policy that fits perfectly into this approach but it is interesting to note why policies failed using it such as poor formulation or power issues. The analysis can show the implementation gap...or Mind the Gap!

The bottom-up approach seems to be a bit more haphazard in nature which conflicts with my personality. The policy is dependent on a network of street-level bureaucrats that share resources and have a level of discretion. How do you analyse this? With great difficulty, there is a horizontal layer with weak structure from what I can gather. Policies are negotiated and there is a great deal of uncertainty. Policies have very vague goals with no associated metrics.

What have I learnt from this 6 seminar course dip into the world of social science? I am very much a quantitative scientist who likes structure, people are confusing and politics even more so. Do I ever want to enter the minefield of policy design, probably not. I think I'd offend too many people by telling them their process sucks.

Suggested Reading:
Paul Sabatier (1986), Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches to Implementation Research: A Critical Analysis and Suggested Synthesis”,Journal of Public Policy, Vol. 6, No. 1. (Jan. - Mar., 1986), pp. 21-48.

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