Abstract: In recent years there has been increasing interest in improving the quality of policy through building the policy capacity of public sector institutions. To date, however, there has been little evidence on which to base capacity building interventions. This thesis presents a study of policy process and policy capacity in the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the Australian State of Victoria. Policy capacity was defined as the organisational infrastructure that supports effective policy development and implementation (including individual competencies). The study drew on the health policy, public policy and public administration literature. Data collection methods involved (i) individual in-depth interviews with policy workers in four policy-oriented organisational units of DHS to explore the policy process and policy capacity, and (ii) a focus group and individual interviews with experienced policy workers to explore potential capacity building strategies. Findings indicate that building policy capacity requires attention to four domains: building and managing a policy-competent workforce; developing formal processes and guidelines for strengthening the policy process; strengthening organisational culture and policy leadership; and strengthening structures and relationships to support policy capacity. Building capacity also involves negotiating tensions between policy capacity and two other elements of governing capacity (administrative capacity and state capacity). The appropriate choice of capacity building strategies depends on context and contingency, including the specifics of particular policies, times and settings. Accordingly, the thesis concludes that a focus on developing policy leadership at the middle and senior levels would be a strategic approach to building policy capacity. Policy leadership involves local level judgement, mentorship, initiative and responsibility, and the ability to mobilise organisational resources to build policy capacity.
Originally part of the Australasian Digital Theses (ADT) database.
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment for the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the School of Public Heatlh], Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
Thesis (Ph.D.) - La Trobe University, 2009.
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