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Towards a Framework for Examining Policy Success

McConnell, Allan and Marsh, David (2008) Towards a Framework for Examining Policy Success. In: Australasian Political Studies Association Conference, 2008-07-06 - 2008-07-09.

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Claims that a particular policy has been a 'success' are commonplace in political life. They emanate from government and government agencies, interest groups, political parties, media, think tanks, non-governmental organisations etc. However, a few of these claims are justified in any systematic way. This article seeks to remedy this omission by offering a heuristic which practitioners and academics can utilise to approach the question of whether a policy is, or was, successful. It builds initially on two sets of literature: work on public sector improvement; and the work of Mark Bovens, Paul 't Hart and collaborators on success, failure and policy evaluation. We begin with a discussion of the epistemological issues involved raising the question of whether it is possible to produce an objective measure of 'success'. Subsequently, we present a framework for assessing success, focusing on three dimensions: process success; programmatic success; and political success. Each of these dimensions is discussed, before we move on to raise a series of what we term complexity issues, that is issues which make any judgment in relation to any of the dimensions of success difficult: the question of success for whom; the variations across time, space and culture in assessing success; and the methodological issues involved.