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  • Author or Editor: Michael Howlett x
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Studies of policy tools have not devoted a great deal of attention to the behavioural characteristics of the objects of policy interventions. These ‘policy targets’ are often assumed to act as simple rational utility maximisers who can be manipulated by incentives and disincentives. This has led to a focus on the calibrations of policy tools rather than on whether the mix of tools in use matches the nature of compliance and cooperation required or demanded of a policy situation. This paper proposes a new research and practice agenda focused on better understanding and matching tool resources to target behaviour.

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Policy design is a type of policy formulation activity centred on knowledge application in the creation of policy alternatives. Expected to attain public sector goals and government ambitions in an effective fashion, it can be undertaken many different ways. The current literature on policy design features an ongoing debate between adherents of traditional approaches to the subject in the policy sciences and those importing into policymaking the insights of design practices in other fields such as industrial engineering and product development: ‘design-thinking’. Issues examined in more traditional approaches to policy design are very wide-ranging and address a wide variety of formulation modalities and their strengths and weaknesses. Efforts to promote ‘design-thinking’ in the public policy realm, on the other hand, focus on policy innovation and rarely deal with issues such as the barriers to implementation, political feasibility or the constraints under which decision-making takes place. This article discusses these differences and argues adherents of design-thinking need to expand their reach and consider not only the circumstances facilitating the generation of novel ideas but also the lessons of more traditional approaches concerning the political and other challenges faced in policy formulation and implementation.

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Background:

This comment responds to points raised in Hannah et al (2023).

Aims and objectives:

The commentary frames the Hannah et al discussion within other recent moves in the policy field to take ‘non-knowledge’ more seriously.

Methods:

The commentary situates the Hannah et al discussion within the traditional literature on knowledge utilisation in the public policy literature.

Findings:

It is argued that while the Hannah et al article is an advance in thinking in the field it does not deal adequately with earlier efforts and findings in the literature.

Discussion and conclusion:

More work towards ‘An agnotology of the policy studies’ is needed.

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Policy design is a type of policy formulation activity centred on knowledge application in the creation of policy alternatives. Expected to attain public sector goals and government ambitions in an effective fashion, it can be undertaken many different ways. The current literature on policy design features an ongoing debate between adherents of traditional approaches to the subject in the policy sciences and those importing into policymaking the insights of design practices in other fields such as industrial engineering and product development: ‘design-thinking’. Issues examined in more traditional approaches to policy design are very wide-ranging and address a wide variety of formulation modalities and their strengths and weaknesses. Efforts to promote ‘design-thinking’ in the public policy realm, on the other hand, focus on policy innovation and rarely deal with issues such as the barriers to implementation, political feasibility or the constraints under which decision-making takes place. This chapter discusses these differences and argues adherents of design-thinking need to expand their reach and consider not only the circumstances facilitating the generation of novel ideas but also the lessons of more traditional approaches concerning the political and other challenges faced in policy formulation and implementation.

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Policy analysis in Canada brings together original contributions from many of the field’s leading scholars. Contributors chronicle the evolution of policy analysis in Canada over the past 50 years and reflect on its application in both governmental and non-governmental settings.

As part of the International Library of Policy Analysis series, the book enables cross-national comparison of public policy analysis concepts and practice within national and sub-national governments, media, NGOs and other institutional settings.

Informed by the latest scholarship on policy analysis, the volume is a valuable resource for academics and students of policy studies, public management, political science and comparative policy studies.

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The ILPA series of country studies displays some significant variation between jurisdictions in terms of the timing and purview of analysis and also shows how the movement towards the application of scientific precepts to policy questions continues to be moderated by adherence to older, more partisan political modes of decision-making and program planning. Despite a discernible trend toward the professionalization of policy advice in most countries, a variety of actors continue to contribute diverse ideas to policy debates, with policy advice systems, and their analytical components, taking diverse forms across nations, sectors and levels of government. In this volume, we present a more systematic and comparative up-to-date understanding of policy analysis practices in Canada than has hitherto been available. This introduction provides an overview of past research into the area and outlines a series of topics and research questions which are addressed in the other contributions to the book.

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A critical challenge policy-makers deal with in responding to problems concerns gaps and reliability issues with respect to the information they are using as well as the difficulties and risks associated with accurately anticipating the future. Failing to correctly identify the bounds and range of these uncertainties and assuming a greater level of certainty in the short-term than may exist in the long – ‘policy myopia’ – is a major cause of policy failure. This paper reviews the literature on uncertainty and its implications for policy-makers, especially aspects of policy adaptation and learning which can help avoid myopic responses.

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This chapter introduces the idea of ‘policy myopia’ as a pressing source of failure in policy making and explores the possibility of developing policies that learn to help mitigate its impacts. It notes that while the problem of bounded rationality and short-term uncertainty is widely acknowledged as the central existential condition for all policy making, the long-term problem of an uncertain, and sometimes unknowable, future is rarely acknowledged. As uncertainty deepens, so too does the probability of policy failure. In these circumstances, actors need to design policies with flexibility and adaptation built in. Where policy solutions are robust over a range of possible scenarios and over time, one can say policies have learning capacity organised into them. Yet, in cases of radical uncertainty, learning may not be possible (or indeed preferable) at all. This reminder of the limits of learning is important. Updating one's belief systems assumes that a certain amount of knowledge exists in the first place.

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Policy analysis in Canada offers original contributions by leading scholars of public policy analysis in Canada. It examines the policy analysis capacity of the Government of Canada, the provincial governments and cities, as well as of the contributions that various civil society actors (e.g., business associations, trade unions, think tanks and the media) make to policy debates. It also sheds light on the role that academics play in not only generating new ideas but also teaching policy analysis. In addition to serving as an important complement to the existing volumes in the International Library of Policy Analysis, this volume contributes pertinent insights on new developments in the art of policy analysis, such as the implication of Big Data, or experimentation with “innovation hubs” in the federal public service and some provincial governments.

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Policy analysis in Canada offers original contributions by leading scholars of public policy analysis in Canada. It examines the policy analysis capacity of the Government of Canada, the provincial governments and cities, as well as of the contributions that various civil society actors (e.g., business associations, trade unions, think tanks and the media) make to policy debates. It also sheds light on the role that academics play in not only generating new ideas but also teaching policy analysis. In addition to serving as an important complement to the existing volumes in the International Library of Policy Analysis, this volume contributes pertinent insights on new developments in the art of policy analysis, such as the implication of Big Data, or experimentation with “innovation hubs” in the federal public service and some provincial governments.

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