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Working for Policy

Working for Policy

Hal K. Colebatch
Robert Hoppe
Mirko Noordegraaf
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Working for Policy
    Book Description:

    There are now many people involved in 'making policy', but there is not a great deal written about how they do it. Most of the books on policy tend to refer obliquely, if at all, to the actual practice of policy work, and offer little guidance to policy workers or students of policy. 'Policy work' seems to be something that you learn on the job. This book addresses directly the nature of policy work. It blends academic and experiential knowledge of the policy process in describing, analysing and evaluating what modern policy workers do in particular situations, and why is that the appropriate thing to do, how it contributes to the policy process, what impact it has, and what can we learn from this about the skills and knowledge required for policy work in complex modern societies.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1308-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-8)
    Hal Colebatch, Robert Hoppe and Mirko Noordegraaf
  4. A Introduction

    • 1 Understanding Policy Work
      (pp. 11-26)
      Hal Colebatch, Robert Hoppe and Mirko Noordegraaf

      ‘Policy’ has become one of the central ways in how we talk about government, presenting the process of government as a pattern of systematic action oriented to particular collective concerns. It is a central concept in a narrative of governing in authoritative and instrumental terms: Governments recognize problems and make decisions to bring public authority and resources to bear upon these problems, with ‘policy’ as the expression of these decisions. As we will see, this perspective embodies questions and puzzles for both practitioners and observers, but it occupies centre stage, constituting a framework within which policy concerns are discussed.


  5. B Accounts of Policy Work

    • Introduction
      (pp. 29-30)

      In this book, scholars and (reflexive) practitioners will tell their ‘stories’ about their work in the field of policy, but first we need to consider the nature of the stories and ‘accounts’ of policy. Talking about ‘policymakers’ implies identifiable actors creating a clearly visible product: ‘policy.’ But when policy is seen in more ambiguous terms, it becomes more difficult to objectively define what the policy ‘is’ or the work that created it. Representing this ambiguous reality as policy is an exercise in interpretation, which is accomplished by policy practices themselves, but also through the scholarly endeavors that analyze the policy-making...

    • 2 Giving Accounts of Policy Work
      (pp. 31-44)
      Hal Colebatch

      This book focuses on how we account for the work of policy, recognizing that there is more than one type of account, and that different accounts may ‘make sense’ in different contexts. In this perspective, we need to recognize that ‘policy’ is itself an account of government, a construct mobilized, both by academic observers and by practitioners, to make sense of the activity of governing. It presents government as a process of instrumental decision making, in which actors called governments address problems and identify goals; the practice of governing is then explained by referring back to these decisions, seeing it...

    • 3 Academic Accounts of Policy Experience
      (pp. 45-68)
      Mirko Noordegraaf

      There is no shortage of texts on policy making, policy analysis, policy processes and policy implementation (e.g., Dunn 1994; Parsons 1995; John 1998; Radin 2000). They show us how policy decisions emerge from policy-making institutions – such as policy bureaucracies – and how circumstances influence the policies that are made. They focus on the policy networks, circles, triangles and rings that constitute policy domains, and determine participants and positions. They describe the policy steps, phases, cycles, and rounds that are necessary to go from initial ideas to policy measures, and they trace how decisions are adapted when plans are implemented...

  6. C Constructing Meaning Through Policy Work

    • Introduction
      (pp. 71-74)

      Policy is a way of giving meaning to how we are governed; it is an account of governing that focuses on collective concerns, the specialized knowledge of problem areas, and the application of public authority. This account emerges not only in the statements of political leaders and senior bureaucrats (loosely labeled ‘policymakers’), but also from how community and sectional activists make claims, experts are recognized and listened to, officials define and apply categories, and journalists construct stories about the public drama of governing. The questions to be addressed include ‘What is this “all about,” whose responsibility is it, and what...

    • 4 New Life for Old Buildings: Mediating Between Different Meanings
      (pp. 75-90)
      Tamara Metze

      Policy work begins with problems and with the way people perceive and respond to these problems. This is a story about a flour mill, a cookie factory, a gasworks, and a shipyard; all old industrial sites in the Netherlands that over the years have lost their function as more and more industrial production has moved to low-wage countries. In a modern capitalist economy the usual response of landowners, financiers, developers and government agencies is to demolish these old deteriorated buildings and replace them with shopping malls, condominiums and offices. This development strategy has long been considered the most lucrative, the...

    • 5 Policy Workers Tinkering with Uncertainty: Dutch Econometric Policy Advice in Action
      (pp. 91-110)
      Annick de Vries, Willem Halffman and Rob Hoppe

      Every year, on the third Tuesday of September, the Dutch cabinet presents its plans to Parliament for the coming year. There is much pomp and circumstance, which is unusual for a political culture that is otherwise proud of its modesty and restraint. The Queen is transported to the Parliament buildings in a golden carriage, cheered on by the masses and accompanied by an extensive corps of mounted guards. The horses are brought in from all over the country for the event, because the state no longer owns enough horses. The Queen’s state of the nation speech then kicks off weeks...

  7. D Policy Work as Mediation

    • Introduction
      (pp. 113-114)

      The previous part, ‘Constructing Meaning through Policy Work,’ emphasized the ambiguities of policy-making, but the enactment of policy realities remained rather ‘local.’ Chapter 4 mainly focused on the construction of meaning in concrete ‘learning networks’ that were formed in order to redevelop buildings. Chapter 5 focused on working relations between economic experts and policymakers within (and around) one organization, the Dutch Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. Although the next two chapters also emphasize policy enactment, they deviate in a few major ways. First of all, they are less ‘local’ in the sense that they describe policy practices thatcut across...

    • 6 Managing the Problematic in Policy Work
      (pp. 115-130)
      Lydia Sterrenberg

      This is an account of policy work that aims to put new things on the political agenda and disrupt institutions. It was an exercise in constructing policy advice about sustainable water management in the Netherlands, undertaken between 1999 and 2002 by the Rathenau Institute, an independent institution for technology assessment, which gives policy advice to the Dutch Parliament.

      In early 1998, some people involved in the field of water management contacted the Rathenau Institute, which is a small, independent think tank funded by the Dutch government to advise Parliament, and is traditionally involved in technology assessment and sustainability studies (Van...

    • 7 Evaluation as Policy Work: Puzzling and Powering in a Dutch Program for Sustainable Development
      (pp. 131-152)
      Anne Loeber

      The pursuit of sustainable development is a major goal of Dutch environmental policy. To facilitate this development in the new millennium, a highly experimental independent body was created: the National Initiative for Sustainable Development (in Dutch: NIDO). NIDO was established as a temporary, publicly financed foundation which operated at arm’s length from the government, and whose purpose was to ‘structurally anchor’ initiatives in society that would facilitate dramatic changes leading to a more sustainable society.

      This meant that the organization had to engage in a very specific form of policy work. While all policy endeavors may be described as a...

  8. E Policy Work Beyond the Nation-State

    • Introduction
      (pp. 155-158)

      Discourse about policy tends to be cast in a form that assumes ‘the government’ – either the national government itself, or a body operating on its behalf – which is comprised of authorized leaders who determine goals or set norms, which are then applied in practice by officials. In these accounts, policy can be traced back to sovereign authority.

      Increasingly, however, policy work is conducted across national boundaries. New regional bodies are emerging whose ability to make rules can override national government authority, such as the European Union. There are also global regimes such as the World Trade Organization, to...

    • 8 Policy Work Between National and International Contexts: Maintaining Ongoing Collaboration
      (pp. 159-170)
      Tanja Woeltjes

      Policy is often seen as a form of ‘problem solving’: the government (and thus the policy advisor) faces a social problem for which solutions are needed. In everyday practice, however, policy workers face a more complicated world, and it is the nature of this more complicated practice that will be discussed in this chapter. It will address policy-making in international and European contexts, and focus on two specific policy issues: the transport of dangerous goods, and measures taken in anticipation of natural and man-made disasters, known as ’civil protection.’ Both of these policy issues are of an international nature, and...

    • 9 Flying Blind in Brussels: How National Officials Do European Business Without Political Steering
      (pp. 171-190)
      Karin Geuijen and Paul ’t Hart

      Most democratic governments have a well-established norm concerning ‘politics’ and ‘bureaucracy’ in the executive branch: ministers set goals and assign priorities whereas civil servants advise them and strive to implement ministerial and cabinet decisions. Decades of research into the relations between politics and administration in numerous countries have shown that this norm is alive and well, but, at the same time, it does not accurately describe practice at either the national or local government levels (Savoie 2003; Peters 2001; ’t Hart and Wille 2006). Politicians cannot keep track of, let alone explicitly direct, everything their vast, complex, highly specialized bureaucracies...

  9. F Linking Systemic and Experiential Knowledge

    • Introduction
      (pp. 193-194)

      We have seen that there are different ways of giving an account of policy, and have distinguished between first-, second- and third-order accounts. This section asks the questions:Do these different accounts speak to each other? And if so, how or, how should they speak to each other?This reflects the notion of applying of the ‘double hermeneutic’ to policy. This is a well-known strategy in the social sciences whereby the social practices and the terms that scientists use to describe them, have impact on one another. Policy scientists interpret the language and actions of policy workers; scholars describe these...

    • 10 Is Evidence-Based Policy Making Really Possible? Reflections for Policymakers and Academics on Making Use of Research in the Work of Policy
      (pp. 195-210)
      Amanda Williams

      It has been persuasively argued throughout this book and elsewhere (Colebatch 2006; Radin 2000) that mainstream Western accounts of the policymaking process often bear little resemblance to the realities of those who ‘accomplish’ the actual policy work on a daily basis. The discussion that follows examines an area where the disjuncture between outcome-focused accounts of how things ought to work, and interpretive descriptions of how the policy process is experienced is pronounced. It involves the translation of academic research into something that is useful in policy work.¹ In this case, the lack of congruency between process challenges and outcome expectations...

    • 11 Locating the Work of Policy
      (pp. 211-224)
      Cris Shore

      What exactly do social scientists seek to achieve when they engage in policy work? Is it dialogue with, or influence over policy professionals? Is it a way for academics to shape the formation or implementation of public policy, or is it to analyze and deconstruct policy in order to explore deeper patterns and processes pertaining to the organization of society? In short, should social scientists follow the policy gaze or seek to critique it?

      The answers to these questions necessarily depend on a host of other variables, including professional ethics, the nature of the policy in question, and one’s own...

  10. G Conclusion

    • 12 The Lessons for Policy Work
      (pp. 227-246)
      Hal Colebatch, Robert Hoppe and Mirko Noordegraaf

      This book has focused on the work that ‘makes policy’ – that is, on policy as a field of specialized professional practice rather than on policy as something created in order to bring about some desirable end. The study of policy has tended to focus on the proclaimed goals of policy, on alternative ways of achieving these goals, on the characteristics and likely outcomes of these alternatives, on the influence of other jurisdictions on policy choices (‘policy transfer’), and on the relationship between proclaimed goals, outputs (‘implementation’) and outcomes (‘effects,’ ‘impacts’). Less attention has been paid to the nature of...

  11. About the Authors
    (pp. 247-250)
  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 251-256)
  13. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 257-259)