T06P02 - Policy Implementation - The Role of Policy Targets

Topic : Policy Implementation

Panel Chair : Anat Gofen - anat.gofen@mail.huji.ac.il

Panel Second Chair : Robert Kent Weaver - Weaverrk@georgetown.edu

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

By definition, public policies embody attempts to alter individuals' behavior by either forcing or permitting them to do things ‘‘they otherwise would not have done’’ (Schneider & Ingram, 1993, p. 513, see also Ayres & Braithwaite, 1992; Bardach & Kagan, 1982; May, 2004, 2005a; Weaver, 2014, 2015; Weimer, 2006). Targets of policy can be officials (Bardach & Kagan, 1982; Carley & Miller, 2012), street-level bureaucrats (May & Wood, 2003), private firms or public organizations (e.g., DeHart-Davis & Bozeman, 2001; Edelman & Talesh, 2011), states or countries (e.g. Haeder & Weimer, 2013; Keiser & Meier, 1996), local municipalities (Bondarouk, Liefferink & Mastenbroek, 2016; Treib, 2014; Versluis, 2007), and individual citizens (e.g., Edwards, 2006; Gofen, 2014; Winter & May, 2001; Weaver, 2014, 2015).

Implementation studies often conclude that targets' implementation actions differ from formal stated policy. Specifically, that gap is often attributed either to the willingness of targets to comply, following their motivations, attitudes, or preferences. An alternative explanation attributes the gap to targets' capacity to comply, following their awareness and resources, as well as their autonomy to comply (see also Hupe and Hill, 2014; Weaver 2015).

Although targets' compliance with policy has a central role in successful implementation, policy noncompliance has been rather ambiguously conceptualized as a behavior incompatible with a policy’s objectives (Weaver, 2014), and is rarely discussed as a heterogeneous phenomenon (Gofen, 2013, 2014; Weaver, 2014, 2015). Moreover, studies focus on targets' implementation actions as the dependent variable, while their role in policy change is overlooked (Gofen, 2014).

Targets' non-compliance is often followed by governmental attempts to increase compliance by influencing policy targets’ behavior in order to bring it into line with current policy arrangements. Efforts to increase willingness to comply mostly involve incentives and information. Nonetheless, more recently attention is being paid to responsiveness, flexibility, and creativity as key components in enforcement, as well as encouraging policy targets’ collaboration and cooperation. Emphasizing the need to consider the capacity to comply, therefore reflecting a more preventive approach to compliance enforcement, scholars have suggested moving from responding to noncompliance after implementation, to attempting to prevent noncompliance already during the policy design stage.

The aim of this panel is therefore twofold. First, it seeks to allow a more nuanced understanding of targets' implementation compliance and implementation noncompliance among various groups of policy targets. Specifically, how to distinguish compliance and noncompliant implementation actions, how to conceptualize and measure compliance /noncompliance, what are the analytic dimensions of compliance/noncompliance, how to increase compliance, and how to prevent noncompliance already during the policy design stage.

Second, the panel seeks to move beyond the convention of implementation compliance as only following policy change. Specifically, policy change literature and implementation literature rarely interrelate: the adoption of a policy often symbolizes the last stage in policy change literature, whereas it is often the starting-point of policy implementation research. In an attempt to link these two scholarly traditions and to emphasize the reciprocal relationship between policy change and implementation compliance, the panel will also focus on studies that refer to targets' implementation actions as the independent variable. 

Call for papers

Although successful implementation depends on targets' compliance with policy, targets' noncompliance with policy is rather ambiguously conceptualized, and often addressed as a homogeneous phenomenon. Moreover, targets' implementation actions are often studied as the dependent variable, while their consequences and outcomes tend to be overlooked.  

The panel’s aim is therefore twofold. First, it seeks to allow a more nuanced understanding of targets' implementation compliance and implementation noncompliance among various groups of policy targets. Second, it seeks to entwine two research traditions, that rarely relate to each other, namely, policy change literature and implementation literature. In policy change literature, a policy’s adoption often symbolizes the last stage, whereas it is often the starting-point of policy implementation research. Accordingly, the role of policy targets is mainly explored as influenced by the introduction of a new policy, while its role in policymaking is often overlooked.  

For this panel we therefore invite papers focusing on implementation actions of policy targets - both as influenced by policy decisions as well as influencing policy decision-making. Our goal is to encompass contributions from different targets' groups, various policy fields, and diverse organizational settings.

To enable a wide-ranging discussion of the role of policy targets in implementation, we invite papers applying theoretical, methodological, or empirical approaches. Papers can focus on compliance/noncompliance as a theoretical framework, and address such questions as how to conceptualize and measure compliance/noncompliance, how to distinguish compliance and noncompliant implementation actions, and how to define the analytic dimensions of compliance/noncompliance. They can also refer to targets' compliance /noncompliance as the dependent variable, and focus on empirical variation between policy targets as well as on mechanisms that increase or avoid compliance, already during the policy design stage. Papers focusing on noncompliance as the independent variable to explore the consequences and outcomes of targets' noncompliance are also welcome. 

Export PDF