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Unravelling Complexity. 11 October, 2011. Policy is what government choose to do or not do. Philosophy Product Process Framework for action. Government. Sets and implements policies (initiates and responds) Manages competing interests Manages risk and uncertainty

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Unravelling complexity

Unravelling Complexity

11 October, 2011

Policy is what government choose to do or not do
Policy is what government choose to do or not do

  • Philosophy

  • Product

  • Process

  • Framework for action

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  • Sets and implements policies (initiates and responds)

  • Manages competing interests

  • Manages risk and uncertainty

  • Seeks to create public value

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Mark moore
Mark Moore

  • Rule setter

  • Service provider

  • Social safety net

  • Creator of public value

    Creating Public Value, Harvard University Press 1995

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Mark moore s strategic triangle
Mark Moore’s Strategic Triangle

Legitimacy & Support

Operational Capabilities

Public Value

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Policy combines government




Policy combines government

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In order to get there:

Vision and values 

Evidence and analysis 

Understanding of stakeholders 

Delivery capabilities

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Policy Cycle(Reference: Althaus, Bridgman, Davis 2007)

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Problems we know the answer to

Problems we don’t know the answer to

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When does a private problem become a public problem?

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Who owns the problem?

Who owns the solution?

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tempered by



Response to crisis

Alternative deliverers

  • Extractive

  • Distributive

  • Regulatory

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Hierarchy of Government Interventions?





ProvideWorld Bank

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Agreement on a problem

Prospect for a solution

How important, how urgent

Initiating/ responding?

Opportunity/ old sore

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Bureaucrats and expertise
Bureaucrats and Expertise

  • Scientific expertise

  • Policy expertise

  • Process expertise

  • Instrument expertise

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Role of government?

Is this a function for government, the market, individuals or families, or charitable activity?

If a mixture, are the other players meeting their share (e.g. through user charges)?

Is this the responsibility of the Commonwealth, or of the states or local government?

Is there serious risk of government failure if it took on the responsibility?

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The role of government in market economies

  • Facilitating Role

  • Allocation Function

  • Distribution Function

  • Stabilisation Function

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The role of government in market economies (cont)

  • Facilitating Role

  • Ensuring conditions for competitive markets to operate

  • Providing the legal structure for contractual arrangements and exchanges

  • Allocation Function

  • Addressing market failures

  • Providing ‘public goods’

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The role of government in market economies (cont)

Distribution Function

  • Reflecting social values including acceptable distribution of income and wealth

    Stabilisation Function

  • Policies for full employment, price stability and desirable economic growth

  • Reflecting the public, as distinct from a private, view of the value of the future

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policy workers understand

  • Boundaries

  • Complexity

  • Accountability

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For whom is it a problem
For whom is it a problem?

For program clients (or potential clients)?

For other program stakeholders?

For taxpayers?

For the public more generally?

For those fundamentally opposed to the endorsed policy?

Where is ‘the public interest’?

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Key points in scoping problems

Urgent/ important

Who sees problem - who cares?

Prospects for a solution

Initiating/ responding

Who’s in charge

What’s routine, what’s not

Does problem match service system

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Problems and service systems do not match

Mismatch of problems and opportunity for solutions

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Break each problem into small and manageable conceptual and implementable parts,


Keep an eye on the big picture!

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Scott/Baehler’s Policy Work Triangle

  • Push the frontier

  • Keep things running

  • Make our ideas work

Operational policy

Responsive policy

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Policy Development in thereal World


Economic crisis


Media story of unmet need

Media story re poor treatment of program client

Adverse ANAO Report

Ongoing policy research, statistics, review

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The science of muddling through
The science of ‘muddling through’

Must start from where you are

Agreeing on what to do is often easier than agreeing on

the reasons

Incremental change has less risk and is easy to adjust

Even radical change usually requires a series of steps


Incrementalism or inertia?

Risk of ad hoc changes, lost opportunities etc

Lindblom /Dror debate from 1959 through 1960s

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