Peering into the black box of government policy work: The challenge of governance and policy capacity

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Department of Social Sciences


There have been calls for more diffused policy advisory systems where a plurality of actors, particularly actors from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), engage with government in deliberating policy interventions to address collective problems. Previous research has found that government-based policy workers tend to have low levels of interaction with outside actors. However, very little is understood about the nature of these interactions. To shed light on this important relationship, a multi-regression structural equation model examines the nature of government-based policy work across three Canadian provinces. From an online survey of 603 Canadian provincial government policy workers, we develop six hypotheses that focus on the drivers of policy capacity and their degree of interaction with non-governmental organizations. The results revealed that increased interaction by the respondents with stakeholders was an important determinant for inviting stakeholders to policy discussions and led to increased perceptions of policy capacity. However, the ongoing trend of politicization in policy work had a dampening impact on overall policy capacity. More importantly, it appears that undertaking more evidence-based policy work did not lead to a greater policy capacity perception or interaction with stakeholder groups. The survey design and model development have the potential to be replicated in other jurisdictions.

Publication Title

Canadian Political Science Review