My remarks today represent my attempt to look beyond one experience with our field and suggest some patterns that may transcend political borders. As some of you may know, I have seen my role as a chronicler and documenter of the field of policy analysis. As someone originally trained as a historian, I have tried to watch the changes that have occurred in this field both in the academy and in the field of practice. Both editions of my book Beyond Machiavelli represent my attempt to describe different eras within the field, first largely inside the US and then in the 21st century when the field clearly moved to recognize global experience. I am always on the lookout for changes in what we all call policy analysis yet those two words are used to encompass very different behaviors.
The second theme that underlies my remarks is more personal and focused on the Israeli context and my relationship to this country. I am a first generation American Jew who was brought up in South Dakota -- an unusual place for someone with my family’s background. My family was attentive to the creation of the state of Israel and my first trip to Israel took place nearly 50 years ago, before the Six Day War. My subsequent trips allowed me to observe the changes that have occurred in this country. My last trip took place in 2013 when I spent a week at Tel Aviv University where Gila was the chair of the policy program; I was there as a visiting faculty member. I do not pretend to be an expert in Israeli policy analysis but I have some familiarity with some of the issues discussed in the book. I found a number of themes in the volume we are celebrating that seem to support an interesting pattern.
When I put these two elements together – changes in the general field of policy analysis over time on one hand and turbulence in Israel on the other hand – I actually find that they are more similar than they are dissimilar. When one digs into the concrete experiences one finds some similarities. They are minimized because some of the authors in the Israel volume seem often to be comparing themselves to the original view of the policy analysis field in the 1960s rather than other behaviors that have developed over the years.
I have identified a number of issue areas from the book that I think illustrate my general argument – that policy analysis in Israel has more in common with the activity in other countries than may be realized or acknowledged. I present these issues as sets of tensions that exist both in Israel and in many other places.
1. Is the focus of the policy analysis field the development of grand policy (as Dror suggests) or is it a more modest focus on incremental changes in the status quo? The assumptions by those in the US who identified themselves as policy analysts in the early days of the field did see themselves as focusing on something close to grand policy. They were focusing on new policies and attached themselves to those at the top reaches of decisionmaking systems. By the 1980s, however, with the spread of the policy analysis activity throughout various parts of the US government system (and to interest groups as well as legislative bodies), the swing was away from grand policy to a more modest focus on incremental changes. Israel’s experience, thus, seemed to have been quite congruent with the broader pattern that emerged.
2. Is the focus of the policy analysis field concentrated on the early stages of the policy process (agenda setting, formulation and adoption) or does it also include approaches that take place in the implementation and evaluation stages? Those working in the early years of the public policy field often saw themselves as crafting new policies in new areas – that is, moving into areas that had been largely unexplored. As the field developed, however, it became more common to begin analytic work by examining the existing experience with existing policies. By the 1980s, this meant that policy analysts began to be more attentive to patterns of implementing policies as well as evaluating the impact of that experience.
Thus the focus of the profession became significantly difficult to define because of its interrelationship with other related fields. Two are particularly relevant to my case; Policy Analysis in Israel provides examples of those developments. First, policy analysis has become increasingly interrelated with the public management field as it has appeared that analytic work that takes place around implementation processes has uncovered attributes of public administration frameworks that seem relevant. And unique characteristics of particular policy areas often emerged from these efforts. Yet these approaches are quite different from the early economics driven approaches of the policy analysis field. At the same time, those original approaches continue to exist.
The second related field that emerged involved evaluation efforts. The early policy analysis activities focused on prospective approaches but the evaluation field moved toward retrospective analysis. When evaluation assessments of policy effectiveness took place they effectively opened a Pandora’s box of complex issues that often had not been considered by policy adopters. It was difficult to determine whether evaluation should highlight micro issues or find a way to find ways to consider the symbolic issues that were often raised by the political processes involved.
My sense is that Policy Analysis in Israel provides a number of examples of these developments and indicates that policy analysis has moved beyond its original focus on the early stages of the policy process.
3. Does the major focus in policy analysis over the years highlight the process of doing the analysis (as in Bardach’s eightfold path) or does it emphasize differences that emerge from the context in which the analysis takes place (e.g. different political structures and unique historical experiences)? The growth and expansion of policy analysis activities in the US by the 1990s indicated that policy analysis is rarely a one-size-fits-all enterprise but a set of processes that are affected by the policy issue at hand and the organizational setting in which the analysis takes place. By the 21st century and the spread of policy analysis around the globe it became clearer that policy analysis in parliamentary systems plays out differently than the process in a shared power political system. Parliamentary systems appear to be able to identify the client of the analysis more clearly and are able to locate that person in terms of the authority found in the head of government. The growth of federalism forms also complicated analysis in countries where central government power was structurally limited. In addition, when policy analysis occurs in a country that relatively recently moved from colonialism to more democratic forms, there continues to be a residue of those colonial experiences. My students from the former Soviet Union or from still-emerging governments have shown me that the very idea of creating alternatives and options to deal with an issue is difficult for them. It is not what they have been trained to do. Indeed, thinking in terms of options may be an important attribute of a democracy. Because of its colonial experience as well as practices brought through patterns of immigration, Israel does have practices that stem from earlier times.
4. Does the relationship between the analyst and the client provide the essential framework for the advising function played by policy analysts or has the relationship with the client become so complex that the analyst actually operates autonomously or in many different and often conflicting ways? The proliferation of the field in different settings has often meant that the original view of the policy analyst as advisor to the decisionmaker has been challenged by other roles. Policy analysts today wear many hats: experts in a policy field, technocrats who lead with analytical expertise, advocates for a particular policy approach, or actually as participants in the decisionmaking process. In addition, it has become clearer that decisionmaking today is not always the responsibility of a single top level person but, rather, is located in collaborative settings or in formal or informal networks. At times the policy analysis is attached to standard operating processes (e.g. budget processes) while at other times it is a distinct stand-alone effort. The expectations of the client may also determine the type of analytic technique used and whether the analysis includes specific recommendations in the analyst’s work. Policy Analysis in Israel does provide some examples of these efforts in the chapters on policy analysis in the legislature, advisory panels, the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Israel and third sector organizations. These chapters seem to indicate that Israeli policy analysts’ work in much the same ways as policy analysts in other countries.
5. Is there a distinct set of analytic techniques that “belong” to the policy analysis profession or does the analyst have the ability to utilize whatever analytic technique seems to be useful in a particular assignment? The systems analysis backdrop to the early years of policy analysis generated a number of analytic techniques that were viewed as a part of the policy analyst’s bag of tricks. These included cost benefit analysis and especially the efforts found in the Program Planning and Budget System (PPBS). When the profession moved from the US Defense Department to other domestic settings, techniques based on efficiency goals did not always provide a way to capture the uncertainties and political pressures related to some policy issues. Analysts became more aware of conflicts between values (e.g. differences between goals based on efficiency, effectiveness and equity values) and were challenged to find ways to analyze the tradeoffs that were required to balance these conflicts. A wide range of analytic techniques moved into some areas of the field, many of them drawn from private sector settings or from traditional academic fields. As Policy Analysis in Israel indicates, various policy analysis activities in Israel drew on such a range of techniques.
6. If one would look for developments in the policy analysis field, would you begin with an examination of schools or departments of policy analysis or would you start with a survey and interviews with practitioners in the field? The first descriptions of the role and work of policy analysts were drawn from the practitioner community (largely by Arnold Meltsner). That information played an important role in defining the curriculum and model in the academic sector. The academic program established at the University of California at Berkeley became one of the models for subsequent departments and schools. The growth of the US field of practice in the 1980s was influenced by the increase in the number of academic programs. There was a reciprocal relationship between those in the field who were responsible for the demand for graduates and the academic programs that supplied them.
As the 21st century began, there were indications that the reciprocity between the two was disappearing and the two sectors moved away from each other. Given the diversity of developments in the field of practice, academic programs moved in two ways. First, they tended to move away from a multi disciplinary approach to more traditional curriculum development and increasingly sought faculty who were trained in the more traditional academic fields. Second, the newer faculty were more likely to draw on methodological approaches that are difficult to apply to “real world” settings. In addition fewer faculty had experience in the world of practice and the gulf between theory and practice became more pronounced.
From the earliest days of the field there were tensions between disciplinary emphases; positivist social science often conflicted with the assumption of perfect rationality built into economics. Information was viewed as neutral by some and transmitting ideology, interests, and institutional constraints to others (as in Carol Weiss). New tensions grew as faculty saw their home base in a range of places. Some looked to traditional academic departments; others emphasized specific substantive policy areas. Some attached themselves to political players while others emphasized their technical capabilities and saw the world as the laboratory they could use to conduct sophisticated analyses. The dichotomy between analysts and advocates became problematic for some and a reality for others. The book we are celebrating here provides evidence that this confusion is a reality in Israel.
Where does this leave us? The modifications that have taken place in the field of policy analysis since its earliest days suggests that the picture of policy analysis that emerges from Policy Analysis in Israel reflects a state of flux in our field. The developments that have occurred since the 1960s have created a field with extremely permeable boundaries. When we look into a mirror reflecting the developments of the policy analysis field we are likely to be confused. One could argue that if policy analysis is everything, then it is nothing. Or, conversely one could argue that this search for a core identity is something that is appropriate for an era characterized by globalization, politicization and conflict. These are realities that seem to be found across the globe.
We know that there are both similarities and differences in every situation when we compare the policy analysis experience in different countries. Probably the publication of the book series is an important expression of this search. I return to the topic of this conference -- Piecing Together the Policy Analysis Puzzle in Volatile Environments. But most of the world today experiences volatile environments in varying ways and varying degrees. So we are all in this together.