Policy Design and Non-Design—A Continuum of Formulation Modalities

Authored by: Michael Howlett , Ishani Mukherjee

Routledge Handbook of Policy Design

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9780815369189
eBook ISBN: 9781351252928
Adobe ISBN:


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Public policies are the result of efforts made by governments to alter aspects of behavior—both that of their own agents and of society at large—in order to carry out some end or purpose. They are comprised of complex arrangements of policy goals and policy means matched through some decision-making process. These policymaking efforts can be more, or less, systematic in attempting to match ends and means in a logical fashion or can result from much less systematic or rational processes. ‘Policy design’ implies a knowledge-based process in which the choice of means or mechanisms through which policy goals are given effect follows a logical process of inference from known or learned relationships between means and outcomes. This includes design, in which means are selected in accordance with experience and knowledge, and non-design, in which principles and relationships are incorrectly or only partially articulated or understood. That is, policy decisions can be careful and deliberate in attempting to best resolve a problem or can be highly contingent and driven by situational logics. Decisions stemming from bargaining or opportunism can also be distinguished from those that result from careful analysis and assessment. This chapter considers both design modes and formulates a spectrum of policy formulation types between ‘design’ and ‘non-design’ to clarify the nature of each type and the likelihood of each type of policy process unfolding.

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