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Policy formulation, governance shifts and policy influence: location and content in policy advisory systems

Jonathan Craft and Michael Howlett

Journal of Public Policy, 2012, vol. 32, issue 02, 79-98

Abstract: Most studies of policy formulation focus on the nature and kind of advice provided to decision-makers and think of this as originating from a system of interacting elements: a “policy advisory system”. Policy influence in such models has historically been viewed as based on considerations of the proximate location of policy advisors vis à vis the government, linked to related factors such as the extent to which governments are able to control sources of advice. While not explicitly stated, this approach typically presents the content of policy advice as either partisan “political” or administratively “technical” in nature. This article assesses the merits of these locational models against evidence of shifts in governance arrangements that have blurred both the inside vs outside and technical vs political dimensions of policy formulation environments. It argues that the growing plurality of advisory sources and the polycentrism associated with these governance shifts challenge the utility of both the implied content and locational dimensions of traditional models of policy advice systems. A revised approach is advanced that sees influence more as a product of content than location. The article concludes by raising several hypotheses for future research linking advisory system behaviour to governance arrangements.

Date: 2012
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