The process by which polices enacted by government

 Implementation: the process by which polices
enacted by government are put into effect by
relevant agencies.
 The study of implementation: what happens
to a policy after it has been formulated.
 Why study implementation?
 By learning from implementation problems,
policy makers can learn better ways to design
policies in order to achieve their intended
In the past, policy scientists ignored
implementation because they assumed:
â—¦ Policies were implemented with little or no
â—¦ The bureaucracy was a neutral implementer of
Why were these assumptions wrong?
â—¦ Policies are often ambiguous
â—¦ Bureaucrats have (and exercise) discretion
Assert that policy implementation
is best studied by:
1. Understanding the goals and
motivations of high-level
initiators of policy
2. Tracking policy through its
implementation at the lowest
3. Focusing on “gaps” between the
policy drafters’ goals and the
actual implementation and
outcomes of policy.
 Policies contain clearlydefined goals against which
performance can be
 Policies contain clearlydefined policy tools for the
accomplishment of goals
 The policy is characterized by
the existence of a single
statute or other statement of
 There is an “implementation
chain” that starts with a
policy message at the top,
and implementation occurs in
a chain (of actors or events)
What are some critiques of
these assumptions?
 Policies are often
intentionally ambiguous
 Policy is often a collection of
separate (and sometimes
contradictory) statutes and
policy statements
 Policy implementation
occurs through many actors,
sometimes simultaneously
(i.e. it isn’t always a linear
 Policy designer have good
knowledge of the capacity
and commitment of the
 Capacity: availability of
resources for an agency to
carry out its tasks
(including money, human
resources, legal
authority/autonomy, knowledge
and skills)
 Commitment: desire of
implementers to carry out
 What are some critiques
of this assumption?
 Federal policy makers
may not always know
the capacity of state and
local actors (which is
likely to vary across
 Street-level bureaucrats
who do not share the
same goals as policy
makers can use their
discretion to subvert
Assert that policy implementation is best studied
 Understanding the goals, motivations, and
capabilities of the lowest-level implementers
 Following the policy design upward to the
highest-level initiators of policy (“backwardmapping”)
 Indentifying where policy implementation is more
successful and less successful
 Goals are ambiguous and
may conflict with other
policy goals, and/or the
norms and motivations of
street-level bureaucrats
 Policy can be thought of
as a set of laws, rules,
practices, and norms
 Implementation works
through a network of
 How are these different from
top-down assumptions?
 Clear goals vs. ambiguous goals
 One statute vs. groups of laws
 A linear “chain” vs. a network of
 Top-down focuses on
compliance while bottom-up
focuses on alleviating conflict
through bargaining and
 It depends what you are studying.
 Top-down may be better when you are studying
a single, dominant program
 Bottom-up may be better when there is no single
dominant program or when you are interested in
local elements of implementation
 Some scholars suggest both approaches should
be synthesized (i.e. combined with one another).
– From Ingram and Mann,
Birkland text p. 191
 Alternatives to policies
 Impact of changing
 Relationships among
 Political boundaries
 Excessive policy demand
 Realizable policy expectations
 Accurate theory of causation
 Choice of effective policy
 The vagaries of
 Failure of political institutions
 Instrumental policy learning: learning about the
effectiveness of policy tools and interventions
 Social policy learning: Learning about the causes of
problems (including focusing on the social constructions
of problems and how this influences policy design)
 Political learning: learning about making more
effective political arguments in a policy debate (i.e.
learning to be a more effective policy advocate)

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