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Policy implementation—a review of literature

Introduction:
Implementation has been defined as “the carrying out of a basic policy decision , usually incorporated in a statute but can be in form of important executive orders or court decisions”(mazmanian and sabatier 1983). It has also been defined as those actions by people that are directed at achievement of objectives set forth in the policy decision (van meter and van Horne 1974). Thus Policy implementation is what develops between an intention of the government to do something and its ultimate impact following action (o toole 2000). Implementation is said to commence once goals and objectives have been established by policy decisions and funds committed (van horn and van meter 1974). Implementation involves both organisational systems and processes and actions of members of the organisation. Implementation studies are to be found at the intersection of public administration, organizational theory, public management research and political science studies (Schofield and Sausman 2004)

Evolution of the field
The policy implementation research literature has grown over the last thirty five years. Significantly the publication of this growing literature is seen in journals outside the core field, suggesting that implementation research has become multidisciplinary and dispersed. The most important fields studied as part of this research stream are education, health, social, economics and environment (Saetren 2005). Although the most preferred topic is education especially for dissertations; the interest in health and environment has grown in the last fifteen years. The emphasis has been on study of domestic issues in these fields with a predominant bias towards United States and to a lesser degree to Europe. Global or international issues have received less focus (Saetren 2005). The study of policy implementation among researchers has oscillated in and out of interest during the last thirty five years. Policy implementation prior to 1970s was not considered an issue important for research. Its importance, there after, has oscillated from overarching importance to neglect. During periods of overarching importance, there has been proliferation of topics for debate such as top down versus bottom up approaches; emphasis on policy content versus implementation of policy; and role of qualitative methods versus quantitative methods for research (o toole 2000). Despite these swings, the pace of research has been slow and even today there is a felt need for large empirical investigations, both longitudinal and cross sectional studies. Policy failures continue to be prominent thus indicating that the implementation puzzle is still unsolved Numerous authors in their reviews of literature (o toole 2000, 2004; Schofield 2001; Deleon 1999) have contended that interest in implementation studies by policy researchers has decreased. The reasons for such a decrease in interest could have been the continuing protracted but futile debate in policy literature on approaches to study of implementation( top down versus bottom up); changing society-government relations which have become more reciprocal and less hierarchic leading to a shift to research in other topics such as governance and networks; pronounced bias towards study of failure of policy leading to decreased interest of researchers; oversimplification of the implementation process with emphasis on a linear rational stage model leading to a disconnect between research findings and practice; and a shift to more newer streams of research such as networks, which facilitated publication. There has been a call for increased research effort in this field (Lester and goggin 1998) with particular emphasis on the integration of policy design and implementation aspects. Implementation studies are still relevant as the translation of government policies into practice is still a concern. Although recent research on policy implementation...
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