Home Political science The tools of policy formulation
The first element of the analytical framework concerns the actors who develop and/or promote particular policy formulation tools. As well as highlighting the critical importance of agency in tool selection and deployment, this element speaks to a broader debate, raised in Chapter 1, about the status and behaviour of the various policy formulators. Across the 11 empirical chapters, three main types of actor appear to have actively promoted and/or developed policy formulation tools: decision makers; knowledge producers and/or providers; and knowledge brokers (Howlett 2011, pp. 31-33).
Decision makers at state and international levels have been assiduous promoters of policy formulation tools, almost since the dawn of policy analysis (Dunn 2004, p. 40). Chapter 7 confirms that states were an early and influential promoter of CBA as the 'cornerstone of modern policy analysis' (Mintrom and Williams 2013, p. 5). CBA was initially developed in the 1930s to take the political heat (and conflict) out of state-planned and funded infrastructure projects such as dams - a role, incidentally, now being reprised in the developing world (Chapter 10). Nowadays, national finance ministries and core executives continue to support the application of indicators and CBA through the publication of rules, statutes and best practice guides (Chapters 7 and 9), under different rhetorical banners including better regulation, administrative modernization and evidence-based policymaking. Governmental actors also work within international organizations such as the OECD and scientific bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to share best practices on many tools, including scenarios (Chapter 3), indicators (Chapter 4) and CBA (Chapter 7). The research arm of the European Commission has directly funded many complex computer models (Nilsson et al. 2008) and taken active steps to ensure they are more heavily utilized in formalized systems of policy-level appraisal (Chapter 9). Chapter 9 identifies the policy officials in line ministries that undertake such appraisal as both potential users and promoters of the tools. We explore their motives for doing these things below.
Under the category of knowledge producers and/or providers, the chapters identify a myriad of actors, in state and non-state settings, who variously:
• Invent tools and numerous variants thereof (for example, academics and technical officials in state bureaucracies);
• Refine and update them (for example, scenario developers);
• Provide the policy-relevant knowledge that is fed into policy formulation activities (for example, statisticians, policy specialists and special advisers).
Academics have constituted a notable source of support for tools. Initially it was economists with strong technical skills (Mintrom and Williams 2013, p. 4) who were in the vanguard, but then other disciplines fed a growing supply of tools such as indicators, MCA and computer modelling. Participatory approaches have emerged, very much out of the post-positivist critique of the policy sciences (Chapter 2). Tools, therefore, have both pragmatic (how to formulate policy) and normative (how policy should be formulated) underpinnings. Industry too has made notable contributions to the development of forecasting, simulation gaming (Chapter 2) and scenario tools (Chapter 3). Consultants and think tanks have also created complex modelling tools such as the influential MARKAL energy model (Chapter 12) as well as scenarios (Chapter 3), and been active disseminators of other tools across government (Chapter 8).
Finally, in some of the chapters, knowledge (or policy) brokers are identified as playing critically important roles. In theory, knowledge brokers are supposed to adopt a more or less neutral role between science and policy. In practice, there are many different subtypes and some chapters emphasize the potentially important role they play in matching tools to policy problems (for example, models to scenarios in processes of integrated assessment - see Chapter 5).
Crucially, all these actors are analytically distinct from the suppliers of policy-relevant knowledge (Radaelli 1995). The tools provide a means to turn knowledge to different policy purposes, that is, a translation function. The growth in policy formulation tools is a tangible manifestation of the broadening and deepening of the policy analysis and advisory community from one dominated by generalist bureaucrats and 'econocrats' (Mintrom and Williams 2013, p. 9), to one comprising a multitude of actors within a more open and plural policy advisory system. Instead of 'speaking truth to power' as Wildavsky (1979) would have it, putting policy formulation tools alongside the actors that utilize them provides a sharper picture of how modern policy analysts seek to 'share the truth with many actors of influence' (Craft and Howlett 2012, p. 85). Adopting a tools perspective on policy formulation - that is, following a particular tool as it is picked up and deployed in different policy formulation venues - arguably offers a new and potentially fruitful way to 'open up the black box' of policy formulation, supplementing the standard methods of following issues or focusing on policy advisory systems.
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