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The Venues of Policy Formulation

Policy formulation - like policymaking more generally - occurs in particular venues. Baumgartner and Jones (1991, p. 1045) have termed these 'venues of policy action', going on to define them as 'institutional locations where authoritative decisions are made concerning a given issue' (Baumgartner and Jones 1993, p. 32). More specifically, Timmermans and Scholten (2006, p. 1105) suggest that the venues 'are locations where policies originate, obtain support, and are adopted as binding decisions'.

To date, this notion has been explored in most depth within the 'venue shopping' literature on agenda setting; a particular sub-field of policy analysis that examines how interest groups strategically shift their demands for realizing political goals between different venues in multilevel systems of governance (Pralle 2003). Several types of venue have been detected, including, inter alia, within federal, state and local governments plus within international organizations (Pralle 2003), European Union institutions and national governments (Beyers and Kerremans 2012), and various trans-governmental co-operation mechanisms (Guiraudon 2002). Venues can include 'formal political arenas such as legislatures, executives and the judiciary, but also the media and the stock market' and so-called 'scientific venues such as research institutes, think-tanks and expert committees' (Timmermans and Scholten 2006, p. 1105). A particular role is also ascribed to the use of scientific evidence by actors to achieve agenda-setting demands in venue shopping strategies (Timmermans and Scholten 2006).

On this basis, any attempt to categorize venues for policy formulation should be cognizant of the institutional space itself and, significantly, the type of evidence used. With respect to the former, when examining formulation we can more neatly divide venues by functional power rather than institutional level or actor group. Here, in terms of relative power, it is national government executives that are still arguably dominant globally, despite increasing shifts towards multi-level governance (Jordan and Huitema 2014). To give greater analytical purchase to our conceptualizations we therefore build on Peters and Barker (1993), Baumgartner and Jones (1993) and Timmermans and Scholten (2006), and define policy formulation venues as institutional locations, both within and outside governments, in which certain policy formulation tasks are performed, with the aim of informing the design, content and effects of policymaking activities.

Policy formulation venues can in principle exist at different levels of governance (nation state versus supra/sub-national); and within or outside the structures of the state. There has been much work (see for example Barker 1993; Parsons 1995; Halligan 1995) on classifying policy advice systems, and two dimensions identified therein are particularly important for understanding policy formulation venues more generally. First, are the policy formulation tasks conducted externally or internally to the executive; in other words, where is the task undertaken? For example, internal venues may be populated wholly or mainly by serving officials or ministers and may include departmental inquiries, government committees and policy analysis units (for examples of the latter, see Page 2003). External venues may encompass legislative, governmental or public inquiries and involve non-executive actors such as elected parliamentarians, scientific advisors, think tanks, industry representatives and non-governmental organizations.

Second, are official (executive) or non-official sources of knowledge employed, that is, what knowledge sources do policy formulators draw upon? We distinguish between executive-sanctioned or derived knowledge,

The main venues of policy formulation

Figure 1.1 The main venues of policy formulation

and unofficial sources that may include surveys, research which appears as non-formal reports, and the outputs of research networks and public intellectuals. Rather closed processes of policy formulation can occur within internal venues using officially derived evidence, in contrast to more open external venues that draw upon non-official forms of knowledge.

Neither of these two dimensions - well known to scholars of policy advisory systems (Craft and Howlett 2012, p. 87) - are binary. For example, there are varying degrees to which the entirety of a policy formulation task is undertaken internally or externally, and varying degrees to which different types of evidence are employed at different times or for different purposes. We therefore propose to represent them by means of a 2X2 matrix (Figure 1.1).

 
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