How street-level dilemmas and politics shape divergence : The accountability regimes framework
2023, Thomann, Eva, Maxia, James, Ege, Jörn
Hierarchical accountability often proves insufficient to control street-level implementation, where complex, informal accountability relations prevail and tasks must be prioritized. However, scholars lack a theoretical model of how accountability relations affect implementation behaviors that are inconsistent with policy. By extending the Accountability Regimes Framework (ARF), this paper explains how multiple competing subjective street-level accountabilities translate into policy divergence. The anti-terrorism “Prevent Duty” policy in the United Kingdom requires university lecturers to report any student they suspect may be undergoing a process of radicalization. We ask: what perceived street-level accountabilities and dilemmas does this politically contested policy imply for lecturers, and how do they affect divergence? An online survey of British lecturers (N = 809), combined with 35 qualitative follow-up interviews, reveals that accountability dilemmas trigger policy divergence. The ARF models how street-level bureaucrats become informal policymakers in the political system when rules clash with their roles as professionals, citizen-agents, or “political animals.”
Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) in Public Administration
2019, Thomann, Eva, Ege, Jörn
Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) is increasingly establishing itself as a method in social research. QCA is a set-theoretic, truth-table-based method that identifies complex combinations of conditions (configurations) that are necessary and/or sufficient for an outcome. An advantage of QCA is that it models the complexity of social phenomena by accounting for conjunctural, asymmetric, and equifinal patterns. Accordingly, the method does not assume isolated net effects of single variables but recognizes that the effect of a single condition (that is, an explanatory factor) often unfolds only in combination with other conditions. Moreover, QCA acknowledges that the occurrence of a phenomenon can have a different explanation from its non-occurrence. Finally, QCA allows for different, mutually non-exclusive explanations of the same phenomenon. QCA is not only a technique; there is a diversity of approaches to how it can be implemented before, during and after the “technical moment,” depending on the analytic goals related to contributing to theory, engaging with cases, and the approach to explanation. Particularly since 2012, an increasing number of scholars have turned to using QCA to investigate public administrations. Even though the boundaries of Public Administration (PA) as an academic discipline are difficult to determine, it can be defined as an intellectual forum for those who want to understand both public administrations as organizations and their relationships to political, economic, and societal actors—especially in the adoption and implementation of public policies. Owing to its fragmented nature, there has been a long-lasting debate about the methodological sophistication and appropriateness of different comparative methods. In particular, the high complexity and strong context dependencies of causal patterns challenge theory-building and empirical analysis in Public Administration. Moreover, administrative settings are often characterized by relatively low numbers of cases for comparison, as well as strongly multilevel empirical settings. QCA as a technique allows for context-sensitive analyses that take into account this complexity. Against this background, it is not surprising that applications of QCA have become more widespread among scholars of Public Administration. A systematic review of articles using QCA published in the major Public Administration journals shows that the use of QCA started in mid-2000s and then grew exponentially. The review shows that, especially in two thematic areas, QCA has high analytical value and may (alongside traditional methodological approaches) help improve theories and methods of PA. The first area is the study of organizational decision-making and the role of bureaucrats during the adoption and implementation of public policies and service delivery. The second area where QCA has great merits is in explaining different features of public organizations. Especially in evaluation research where the aim is to investigate performance of various kinds (especially effectiveness in terms of both policy and management), QCA is a useful analytical tool to model these highly context-dependent relationships. The QCA method is constantly evolving. The development of good practices for different QCA approaches as well as several methodological innovations and software improvements increases its potential benefits for the future of Public Administration research.
Under what conditions does bureaucracy matter in the making of global public policies?
2023, Ege, Jörn, Bauer, Michael W., Wagner, Nora, Thomann, Eva
This study investigates how configurations of bureaucratic autonomy, policy complexity and political contestation allow international public administrations (IPAs) to influence policymaking within international organizations. A fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis of 17 policy decisions in four organizations (FAO, WHO, ILO, UNESCO) shows that all IPAs studied can be influential in favorable contexts. When policies are both contested and complex, even IPAs lacking autonomy can influence policy. If either complexity or contestation is absent, however, it is the variant of autonomy of will that helps the IPA exploit procedural strategies of influence. Low autonomy of will, among other factors, explains why IPAs cannot exert influence. Conversely, the variant of autonomy of action appears largely irrelevant. The study provides new insights into the role of bureaucracy beyond the state, exemplifying how research of bureaucratic influence can yield more systematic results in various empirical settings.
Approaches to Qualitative Comparative Analysis and good practices : A systematic review
2022-09, Thomann, Eva, Ege, Jörn, Paustyan, Ekaterina
The Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) methodology has evolved remarkably in social science research. Simultaneously, the use of QCA too often lags behind methodological recommendations of good practice. Improper use is a serious obstacle for QCA to enrich the social science methodology toolkit. We explore whether the coherence of analytic approaches can help us understand good practices in applied QCA by performing a systematic review of 86 QCA studies. Although adherence to technical GPs has improved over time, we find a high prevalence of incoherent, “hybrid” approaches. As the hybridity of a study increases, its adherence to good practices decreases. The case-oriented, realist, exploratory QCA studies do not consistently follow recommendations of good practice. Instead, the only consistently good-practice approach is case-oriented, realist, but explicitly theory-evaluating. We conclude that consistently aligning methodological choice with the underlying analytic approach and the use of theory can help foster good practices in applied QCA.