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This is How to Think About and Achieve Public Policy Success

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 413

Matt Andrews 
May 2022

Abstract:

Officials working on public policies must answer questions like ‘What does policy success mean?’ and ‘How should I pursue policy work in order to achieve success?’ These are difficult questions, but there are ways to respond. One way draws on what I call the program logic of policy success, which suggests that: (i) Success requires efficiently meeting goals that stakeholders view as relevant, (ii) by doing work focused on impacting high-level objectives through programs that deliver promised time-sensitive outputs and outcomes according to a clear, logical plan. I believe this logic dominates the global public policy community, as ‘the way’ officials and organizations should think about and do policy work. This paper tests such belief, showing that officials do think in this way and that this thinking is influenced by common budgeting and evaluation mechanisms. I conclude by asking if this way of thinking poses any concerns, especially if it biases policy organizations to produce some kinds of policy success and not others.

Affiliated Program: Building State Capability