Understanding the influences on public policy
There is a gap between what public decision makers set out to achieve and what is realised. What is considered to be best practice and what has been agreed in terms of general policy concepts is clear, yet this clarity is commonly lacking in the outcomes of public decisions. The reasons for this are numerous and have, individually, been documented in the literature many times. However, few of these considerations appear to have taken a holistic view, despite public decision makers operating in a world where all or many of these factors operate in concert. The literature and public practice proffer many potential solutions yet, these too require further consideration in terms of how they can complement the overall practice of public administration.
The gap between the idea conceived and the reality realised can be minimised by understanding the factors that create that gap in a holistic sense. This view will enable the further identification, development and demonstration of solutions to assist public administrators to deliver the outcomes their citizens demand and their governments were elected to achieve.
REsearch to date
i). Initially I looked to identify and understanding the influences on public policy development, as perceived by the literature. This has resulted in the identification of a large number of distinct and integrated influences on public decision makers.
ii). I then sought to develop case studies to understand and highlight differences in public decision making approaches. Case studies were chosen on the basis of the drivers behind them, such as whether sustainable development and it's principle were/weren't likely to be considered. The presence of detailed information concerning these examples within the public domain was also a critical factor, with more than one case having to be discarded due to critical information being Cabinet-in-Confidence.
iii). Then I engaged with 35 current or former Victorian public servants: Some passionate about sustainable development, others not so much; longstanding, newly appointed, and past Victorian Public Sector (VPS) staff; VPS-5 through to Secretary’s, Commissioners and CEOs; representing every Department and several agencies. They talked about the way they generally approach public decision making, particular case studies, what sustainable development means to them, and how they’ve seen it applied (or not) in the VPS.
iv). The final active step was to use the information gathered in steps i-iii to develop a fixed choice survey. The survey, open to all Victorian government decision makers, resulted in a quantitative data set that will be used to validate, expand on and counter the earlier stages.
The data has been collected and now it's time for me to squirrel away, try to make sense of it and write some papers.
If you are interested in finding out more in the interim, please let me know here.