How street-level dilemmas and politics shape divergence : The accountability regimes framework
2023-05-04, 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.”
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.
How do international bureaucrats affect policy outputs? : Studying administrative influence strategies in international organizations
2021, Ege, Jörn, Bauer, Michael W., Wagner, Nora
The article investigates how international public administrations, as corporate actors, influence policymaking within international organizations. Starting from a conception of international organizations as political-administrative systems, we theorize the strategies international bureaucrats may use to affect international organizations’ policies and the conditions under which these strategies vary. Building on a most-likely case design, we use process tracing to study two cases of bureaucratic influence: the influence of the secretariat of the World Health Organization on the “Global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases”; and the influence of the International Labour Office on the “Resolution concerning decent work in global supply chains”. We use interview material gathered from international public administration staff and stakeholders to illustrate varying influence strategies and the conditions under which these strategies are used. The study shows how and when international public administrations exert policy influence, and offers new opportunities to extend the generalizability of public administration theories.
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.
Structured, Focused Comparison
2023, Jankauskas, Vytautas, Eckhard, Steffen, Ege, Jörn
Structured, focused comparison (SFC) allows a structured comparison of several cases (e.g., six international organizations), whereby the researcher conducts in-depth analysis within each case based on a standardized set of variables and general questions. The design not only increases the external validity of findings but also allows for cross-case comparison and a fine-grained theoretical analysis. Typical applications are research questions focused on processes or mechanisms and those that allow for the interplay of several interdependent conditions (causal complexity).
Avoiding disciplinary garbage cans : a pledge for a problem-driven approach to researching international public administration
2022-07-03, Ege, Jörn, Bauer, Michael W., Bayerlein, Louisa, Eckhard, Steffen, Knill, Christoph
In this article, we distinguish two approaches to studying international public administrations (IPAs). On the one hand, there is a line of research that is grounded in traditional Public Administration (PA) and seeks to understand IPAs through established disciplinary lenses. On the other hand, scholars conceive IPAs as posing new problems and questions and are trying to integrate the standpoints of their respective disciplines into a broader research agenda. We argue that both perspectives have their merits – and limitations. However, the more IPAs are understood as phenomena heralding the emergence of transnationalized political systems, the less traditional PA toolkits appear able to capture the innovative aspects IPAs may hold. This essay thus argues for keeping IPA research as a field of study open, integrative and mixed – to encourage out of the box thinking and innovation, rather than stifle it.
What International Bureaucrats (Really) Want : Administrative Preferences in International Organization Research
2020-11-23, Ege, Jörn
The secretariats of international organizations (international public administrations [IPA s]) constitute the institutional grid of global governance. While recent research has provided valuable insights into the independent capacities of international organizations (IO s) and the influence of IPA s, we lack systematic knowledge of how scholars conceptualize the preferences of IO staff. This is lamentable because understanding the (unifying) motivations of “international civil servants” helps us to make sense of their behavior and influence during the adoption and application of IO policies. To review how IPA studies conceptualize the preferences of international bureaucrats, this article suggests a fourfold typology of ideal-typical bureaucratic behavior. It distinguishes between the underlying behavioral logic and dominant bureaucratic goal orientation. Applying the typology to thirty-nine journal articles allows us to map IPA preferences and behavior, and shows that the literature predominantly views IPA s as behaving responsibly and less self-centeredly than could be expected from economic accounts of bureaucracy.
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.
Evidence-Based Policymaking in Times of Acute Crisis : Comparing the Use of Scientific Knowledge in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy
2022, Hadorn, Susanne, Sager, Fritz, Mavrot, Céline, Malandrino, Anna, Ege, Jörn
This article studies how different systems of policy advice are suited to provide relevant knowledge in times of acute crisis. The notion of evidence-based policymaking (EBP) originated in the successful 1997 New Labour program in the United Kingdom to formulate policy based not on ideology but on sound empirical evidence. We provide a brief overview of the history of the concept and the current debates around it. We then outline the main characteristics of the policy advisory systems in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy through which scientific knowledge—in the form of either person-bound expertise or evidence generated through standard scientific processes—was fed into policy formulation processes before the COVID-19 crisis. Whereas EBP takes place in the form of institutionalized advisory bodies and draws on expertise rather than on evidence in Germany, the system in Switzerland focuses more on the use of evidence provided through external mandates. Italy has a hybrid politicized expert system. The article then analyzes how this different prioritization of expertise vs. evidence in the three countries affects policymakers’ capacity to include scientific knowledge in policy decisions in times of acute crisis. The comparison of the three countries implies that countries with policy advisory systems designed to use expertise are better placed to incorporate scientific knowledge into their decisions in times of acute crisis than are countries with policy advisory systems that relied primarily on evidence before the COVID-19 crisis.
Improving Generalizability in Transnational Bureaucratic Influence Research : A (Modest) Proposal
2020-09-01, Ege, Jörn, Bauer, Michael W., Wagner, Nora
An impressive amount of evidence has been collected underpinning the importance of international public administrations (i.e., the secretariats of international governmental organizations) in a variety of policy areas, actor configurations, and multilevel political contexts. However, the problem of how to systematically observe and explain bureaucratic influence still lies at the core of the research puzzles that scholars presently attempt to solve. While acknowledging the achievements of recent research efforts, we argue that it is no coincidence that the results remain rather scattered and disconnected—as no consensus has been reached about how bureaucratic influence beyond nation states might be reasonably defined or reliably observed and how the individual insights gained could feed into the construction of a more general theory of bureaucratic influence in transnational governance. Based on a review of the literature, the essay describes what we see as the characteristic pitfalls of current research and presents two modest proposals on how the underlying challenges can be addressed. We first suggest defining the target of influence in terms of a particular policy and second advocate the inclusion of bureaucratic policy preferences into the influence concept. In order to help researchers to observe and compare policy influence across IPAs, we present a simple heuristic measurement scheme, which, if systematically applied, may help overcome the central ailment of recent influence studies. We demonstrate the applicability of the scheme by means of two empirical illustrations. The argument is that in the absence of a comprehensive descriptive, let alone analytical, theory of bureaucratic influence in transnational policymaking, our proposal may help to boost the accumulative potential of current research in the area.