Home Political science The tools of policy formulation
An Analytical Framework
In the rest of this book, a number of experts in policy formulation tools and venues seek to shed new light on the interaction between four key aspects of these tools, which together constitute our analytical framework: actors, capacities, venues and effects.
First, we seek to elucidate those actors who participate in policy formulation, particularly those that develop and/or promote particular policy formulation tools. The tools literature has often lacked a sense of human agency and, as noted above, the policy formulation literature tended to ignore the tools being used. These two aspects need to be brought together. In this book we therefore seek to know who the actors are and why they develop and/or promote particular tools. Why were particular tools developed, when and by whom? And what values do the tools embody?
Second, we want to know more about by whom and in which policy formulation venues such tools are used, and for what purposes. What factors shape the selection and deployment of particular tools? Again the broader question of agency seems to be largely unaddressed in the four existing literatures summarized above. Tool selection is treated largely as a 'given'; indeed many studies seem to ignore entirely the reasons why policymakers
Table 1.1 A typology of policy formulation tools, linking tools to their potential use in different policy formulation tasks
Source: Based on Dunn (2004); de Ridder et al. (2007).
utilize them (or do not). Finally, relatively little is known about how the various tools and venues intersect, both in theory and, as importantly, in practice.
Third, we wish to examine the relationship between policy capacity and policy formulation tools. Policy capacity is one of a number of sub-dimensions of state capacity, which together include the ability to create and maintain social order and exercise democratic authority (Matthews 2012). Broadly, it is the ability that governments have to identify and pursue policy goals and achieve certain policy outcomes in a more or less instrumental fashion, that is, 'to marshal the necessary resources to make intelligent collective choices about and set strategic directions for the allocation of scarce resources to public ends' (Painter and Pierre 2005, p. 2). It is known to vary between policy systems and even between governance levels in the same policy system. Policy instruments and tools have long been assumed to have an important influence on policy capacity - if they did not, why use them (Howlett et al. 2014, p. 4)? The fact that they are unevenly used over time, for example, could explain why the policy capacity to get things done also varies across space and time (Bahr 2010; Wurzel etal. 2013).
The chapters of this book seek to examine the relationship between policy capacity and tools in three main ways. First, they conceive of the policy formulation or policy analytic capacities that inhere within each tool (in other words, Table 1.1). For example, scenarios and foresight exercises provide policymakers with the capacity to address the problem characterization and problem evaluation tasks, particularly in situations of high scientific uncertainty. By contrast, tools such as CBA and multi-criteria analysis (MCA) provide a means to complete the policy assessment of option and policy design stages of the policy formulation process.
Second, the chapters also tackle the question of what policy capacities are in turn required by policymakers to employ - and perhaps even more fundamentally to select - certain policy formulation tools. For example, relatively heavily procedural tools such as MCA and CBA arguably require specialist staff and specific oversight systems. When these are weak or absent, the use made of tools may tend towards the symbolic. Thus, several questions may be posed. What capacities do actors have - or need -to employ specific policy formulation tools? And what factors enable and/ or constrain these capacities?
Finally, the chapters open up the potentially very broad - but equally important - question of what factors might conceivably enable or constrain the availability of these capacities. The fact that critical supporting capacities may not be available in every policy system is something which is raised in several of the chapters.
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