My links with IGOP, if I might say so, really predate its foundation. This means that I have been working with Joan Subirats and several other members, past and present, of the Institute for no less than 30 years. All these joint efforts have been in the field of public policy analysis and included cooperation in a number of European funded research projects.
The main reason for this continuing collaboration lies in the sharing of several scientific interests that all together form a coherent and somehow distinctive research approach. An incomplete list should include at least the following:
· A clear option to look at “government at work” i.e. public policies conceptualized as attempts to tackle collective problems.
· A focus on the complexity of modern governance against all reductionist approaches and doctrines (New Public Management, for instance).
· A specific interest in institutions and institutional change and their relations with policy making.
· A place-based approach to policy making, i.e. the need to take into consideration the characteristics of the different territories.
· A particular emphasis on the involvement of citizens through participatory and/or deliberative practices.
· And last, but not least, the shared engagement to generate “usable knowledge”, i.e. conceptual tools able to help policy actors to produce better policies.
The last point is particularly noteworthy because the present concerns of academia, and therefore the incentives that shape the research agenda of many scholars, seem to go in a different direction with scant interests in real world policy actors and their needs.
keep up the good work done in the last ten years without any sharp change in direction
From this point of view the best, and certainly not needed, advice that I can give to the friends at IGOP it to keep up the good work they have done in the last ten years without any sharp change in direction. The points I have listed above should provide sufficient guidance also in the years to come.
The one suggestion, stemming from my understanding of the state of the art of public policy analysis, I would like to make regards the object of analysis. In the last 30 years I think we have made significant progress both in the study of policy formulation (i.e. the mechanisms that shape the process of policy change) and in policy evaluation. In both case we are able to provide useful advice to policy actors. The same is not true with regard to policy implementation, and this is somewhat ironic, as, at least in Europe, the study of public policy started precisely with the study of policy implementation in order to overcome the less than satisfactory tenets of Public Administration. However we were unable to go much further in our understanding of what happens in the “black box” and the main theoretical approach that was developed in the field – the advocacy coalition framework – is much too complicated to be able to provide guidance to real world actors. I believe that the most promising field of inquiry in the years to come, one in which the scholars in IGOP could make a significant contribution, is precisely this, possibly through an “evidence based” approach able to capture the complexity of the real world.