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Policy Design and Non-Design: Towards a Spectrum of Policy Formulation Types


  • Michael Howlett

    (Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University, Canada)

  • Ishani Mukherjee

    (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore)


Public policies are the result of efforts made by governments to alter aspects of behaviour—both that of their own agents and of society at large—in order to carry out some end or purpose. They are comprised of arrangements of policy goals and policy means matched through some decision-making process. These policy-making efforts can be more, or less, systematic in attempting to match ends and means in a logical fashion or can result from much less systematic processes. “Policy design” implies a knowledge-based process in which the choice of means or mechanisms through which policy goals are given effect follows a logical process of inference from known or learned relationships between means and outcomes. This includes both design in which means are selected in accordance with experience and knowledge and that in which principles and relationships are incorrectly or only partially articulated or understood. Policy decisions can be careful and deliberate in attempting to best resolve a problem or can be highly contingent and driven by situational logics. Decisions stemming from bargaining or opportunism can also be distinguished from those which result from careful analysis and assessment. This article considers both modes and formulates a spectrum of policy formulation types between “design” and “non-design” which helps clarify the nature of each type and the likelihood of each unfolding.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Howlett & Ishani Mukherjee, 2014. "Policy Design and Non-Design: Towards a Spectrum of Policy Formulation Types," Politics and Governance, Cogitatio Press, vol. 2(2), pages 57-71.
  • Handle: RePEc:cog:poango:v:2:y:2014:i:2:p:57-71

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    Cited by:

    1. Chisung Park & Jooha Lee & Changho Chung, 2015. "Is “legitimized” policy always successful? Policy legitimacy and cultural policy in Korea," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 48(3), pages 319-338, September.
    2. repec:kap:policy:v:50:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11077-016-9273-x is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:cog:poango:v:5:y:2017:i:2:p:69-78 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:kap:policy:v:50:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11077-017-9301-5 is not listed on IDEAS


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