Home Political science The tools of policy formulation
Finally, what effects, both intended and actual, do the various tools generate when they are employed? As we explained above, our original expectation was that the tools would produce some quite specific epistemic and political effects. But while some evidence is available on their wider effects, much more is required. The policy instruments literature has been struggling to address this question, at least for implementation tools, ever since Salamon (2002, p. 2) speculated that each tool imparts its own distinctive spin or twist on policy dynamics. Substantive effects include learning in relation to new means to achieve given policy goals (a feature which is predominant amongst the more structured procedural tools such as CBA, but also computer modelling tools) through to the heuristic-conceptual effects on problem understandings (see for example Chapters 2 and 3, this volume). The procedural effects could be similarly wide ranging including (re-)channelling political attention, opening up new opportunities for outsiders to exert influence and uncovering political power relationships. The chapters examine whether or not these and other effects occurred, and whether they were, or were not, originally intended.
Plan of this Book
The chapters are grouped into two main parts. Those in Part II provide - in some cases, for the very first time - a systematic review of the literature on particular tools. They are written by tool experts according to a common template and draw upon examples from across the globe. Given space constraints, we elected to focus on six of the most widely known and commonly advocated tools, which broadly reflect the range of tool types and policy formulation tasks summarized in Table 1.1. Thus, Matthijs Hisschemoller and Eefje Cuppen begin by examining participatory tools (Chapter 2), Marta Pérez-Soba and Rob Maas cover scenarios (Chapter 3) and Markku Lehtonen reviews indicators (Chapter 4). Then, Martin van Ittersum and Barbara Sterk summarize what is currently known about computerized models (Chapter 5), Catherine Gamper and Catrinel Turcanu explore forms of multi-criteria analysis (Chapter 6) and Giles Atkinson concludes by reviewing the literature on cost-benefit analysis (Chapter 7).
The chapters in Part II explore the relationship between actors, venues, capacities and effects from the perspective of each tool. By contrast, the authors in Part III cut across and re-assemble these four categories by looking at tool-venue relationships in Europe, North America and
Asia. Some (for example, Chapters 8 and 9) turn the analytical telescope right around and examine the use made of multiple tools in one venue. Each chapter employs different theories to interpret freshly collected empirical information to test explanations and identify pertinent new research questions. In broad terms, the first two chapters in Part III examine the use of multiple tools in one or more venues, whereas those that follow focus on the application of specific tools in one or more venues. Thus in their chapter, Michael Howlett and colleagues explore the distribution of all tools across many venues in Canada (Chapter 8), whereas John Turnpenny and colleagues explore the use of all the tools in the single venue of policy-level appraisal within Europe (Chapter 9). Sachin Warghade examines the use of two tools in a number of different venues in India (Chapter 10), and Christina Boswell et al. investigate the use of indicators in the UK (Chapter 11). Finally, Paul Upham and colleagues explore the application of a particular type of computerized model in a range of different policy formulation venues in the UK (Chapter 12). In the final Chapter (13), we draw together the main findings of the book and identify pertinent new policy and analytical research challenges. Conscious that this still has the look and feel of a sub-field of policy analysis 'in the making' we attempt to draw on these findings to critically reflect back on our typology, our definition of formulation tools and our analytical framework.
More generally, in Chapter 13 we seek to explore what a renewed focus on policy formulation tools adds to our understanding of three important matters. First, what stands to be gained in respect of our collective understanding of the tools themselves, which as we have repeatedly noted have often been studied in a rather isolated, static and descriptive manner? Second, what does it reveal in relation to policy formulation and policymaking more generally? Policy formulation is arguably the most difficult policy 'stage' of all to study since it is often 'out of the public eye . . . [and] in the realm of the experts' (Sidney 2007, p. 79). Howlett has argued that it is a 'highly diffuse and often disjointed process whose workings and results are often very difficult to discern and whose nuances in particular instances can be fully understood only through careful empirical case study' (Howlett 2011, p. 32). Aware of the challenges, in this book we seek to investigate what a renewed focus on tools is able to add to the current stock of knowledge. In doing so, we seek to directly challenge the conventional wisdom about tools as epiphenomenal, that is, wholly secondary to ideas, interests, power and knowledge. Finally, what does it add to our collective understanding of the politics of policymaking? This is an extremely pertinent question because many of the tools were originally conceived as a means to take the political heat out of policymaking.
Rationalism no longer holds the same grip on policy analysis as it once did, but the perceived need to 'design' policy interventions as effectively and as legitimately as possible remains as strong as ever. Therefore, whether or not the tools succeed in these tasks is something we believe will interest mainstream political scientists, as much as policy analysts and experts in the tools.
1. Hood and Margetts' (2007) concept of 'detector' tools for harvesting policy relevant information corresponds only to one of a number of different policy formulation tasks.
2. Although we regard the terms tool and instrument as being broadly synonymous, henceforth we use the term 'tools' mainly to differentiate policy formulation tools from policy implementation instruments.
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