Linking Policy Design and Implementation Styles

Authored by: Jale Tosun , Oliver Treib

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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In this contribution, we bring together two strands of research that have so far existed side by side: the scholarship on policy design and the literature on policy implementation. Designing policies involves identifying goals and selecting policy instruments with which the goals can be reached. Policy implementation is about putting these policies into practice and comprises the definition of an implementation structure, decision-making within agencies, target group behavior and policy results. We propose to connect the stages of policy design and policy implementation by means of the concept of policy feedbacks. Based on the two traditional approaches to studying policy implementation, we distinguish two ideal typical implementation styles. Policy delivery can be organized in a centrally controlled hierarchical manner, where fixed policy intentions are expected to be handed down to addressees with as little deviation as possible (centralized implementation), or it can be organized in a more decentralized manner that leaves implementing actors more leeway for adapting the policy to local circumstances (decentralized implementation). We argue that while decentralized implementation offers more insights into what makes policy work than centralized implementation, the latter is more likely to produce policy feedbacks that inform future policymaking and potential redesign of the policy concerned.

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