Institute for Governance and Policy Studies

IPS WP 11/04 Experimentation and Learning in Policy Implementation: Implications for Public Management

Policy objectives often can be simply stated. Yet, policy implementation frequently becomes complex, not only when the problem addressed is complex or wicked, such as family violence prevention, but also when the policy is simply stated, such as raising the GST. In complex implementation, effective organisational and individual practices facilitate learning by experimentation. Practices centre on detecting anomalies and then explicitly incorporating reflections on them in ongoing design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation activities. The research drew on policy and experimentation literature to propose a new framework for describing complex implementation practices, a range of cases studies, and discussions with policy managers. Findings highlight the need for a consistent strategic view of end goals, some means for testing changes, and the capacity to identify and assess results in order to redirect effort. Support for these practices involves ensuring appropriate permission to experiment, early and sustained activity conducted outside the responsible agencies, and open access to multiple sources of expertise. Implementing agencies and the policy management system need to take every opportunity to fully incorporate learning into their understanding of the agency’s role, capability requirements, and future focus.


Published in June 2011

IPS WP 11/04 Download here

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