UBC Theses and Dissertations
Implementation of public policy : a case study Shanks, Gordon Ross
Students of public policy have, until recently, centred their attention on the process by which policies are formulated, based on the implicit assumption that a well-formulated policy will be faithfully implemented. Disillusionment with policy outcomes in many areas has led to a concern for understanding the factors which influence the implementation of policy. As a first step, this study develops a theoretical role for an identifiable implementation process within a larger public policy process. The study develops two related models. The first identifies four structural components in the implementation process: policy output, initiation of implementation, implementation action and information feedback. The second model hypothesizes the important elements which characterize an implementation process and influence the movement from a policy output to a policy outcome. Eight elements are identified: implementing actors, policy objectives, resources, interested actors, policy environment, incentives and sanctions, stakes, and rules. The hypothesized linkages among the elements are described. Based upon these two models, the determinants bf policy outcome are posited. In addition to the eight process elements, these include: technical tractability of problem, policy environment, decision-making environment, and uncertainties. The theoretical framework is applied to a case study bf the Canada-British Columbia Okanagan Basin Implementation Agreement (OBIA). The stages leading up to implementation of the recommendations bf an earlier framework planning study are described. The initiation of implementation culminated in the signing of a joint federal-provincial Implementation Agreement which responded to the recommendations of the plan but re-interpreted many bf these. The analysis demonstrates the importance of a pre-implementation phase wherein policy objectives and intentions are re-examined, interpreted, and operationalized prior to implementation action. Action under the OBIA is described and analysed for four specific cases concerning water quality, water quantity, international aspects, and public participation. The empirical conclusions indicate the technical aspects of the OBIA have been implemented according to the obligations of the Agreement. Departures from the Agreement were based on careful technical analysis. Implementation was viewed by the implementers as a technical, mechanistic process with little regard to social value uncertainties. The study provides an examination of the utility of the theoretical models. It concludes that the hypothesized variables can describe the functioning of an implementation process and provide a comprehensive analytical picture. The highlights of the conclusions are: the jurisdictional breakdown between the federal and provincial governments as interpreted by and reflected in the objectives of the key implementing actors was very significant in shaping the outcome. The specificity of the policy output in terms of intentions and articulation of uncertainties had an impact as did the rigidity of the implementation mechanism. Resource constraints were a significant determinant of outcome, supporting a proposition that resource availability be carefully analysed in a pre-implementation phase. Interested actors had an influence in proportion to the degree of direct impact implementation measures had upon specific interests. Uncertainties in technical and quantitative areas appear to have been well managed, whereas value uncertainties were generally not considered. The study evidence suggests if an implementation process is inflexible and cannot adapt to changing social circumstances by embracing uncertainties, it will become irrelevant, and the current issues will be considered outside of the implementation process.
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