Panel: Policy Failures and Time-Sensitive Governance; Timescapes and Governance Dilemmas in Public Policy
(The Impacts of Politics on the Policy Process)

Saturday, November 8, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Navajo (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Jorren Scherpenisse, Netherlands School of Public Administration
Panel Chairs:  Jorren Scherpenisse, Netherlands School of Public Administration
Discussants:  Jorren Scherpenisse, Netherlands School of Public Administration and Giap Tan, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations

Temporal Patterns: The Circular Dynamics behind Policy Failures in the Educational Sector
Jorren Scherpenisse, Netherlands School of Public Administration

Timing; Lessons from the Policy-Making Process for the Dutch Housing Sector
Giap Tan, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations

Government policy is usually accompanied by large ambitions and budgets. But what if policies fail? What if a program plan does not meet its goals, or even worse, has an opposite effect? How can we explain that agents delivering critical public services underperform or otherwise suddenly get into trouble and, for example, go bankrupt? These are relevant questions for governments all over the world. In the Netherlands, there have been many incidents like these in recent years, making it a very relevant topic for policy makers and researchers. The study of policy failures is important for policy evaluation and knowledge building (e.g. Baumgartner & Jones, 1991; McConell, 2010; Capano, 2014). We propose that the (unexpected) occurrence of a major policy failure can be better understood when incorporating the perspective of time in the analysis. Dimensions like timing, sequence, speed, duration, time budgets, and time horizons are all present in the public sector and have an impact on the strategies, perceptions and actions of actors in the field (e.g. Pollitt, 2008; Adam, 1998). Gaining insight in the different dimensions of time can therefore stimulate the development of time sensitive governance. Based on the current literature, different elements of time can be distinguished in relation to policy failures. The perception of time can differ between actors (Fischer, 2003; Hildén, 2009) and the interpretation of success and failure can change over time (Boin, ‘t Hart & McConell, 2009). Time frames can differ between parties, change over time and can be influenced by policy makers (Bressers, van Twist & ten Heuvelhof, 2013). Furthermore, time patterns like circular dynamics or path dependency can have a real impact on the way policy implementation develops (Bovens & ‘t Hart, 1996). Timing is a third dimension related to policy failure (Goetz & Meyer-Sahling, 2009). Deadlines and temporal cut-off points may be avoided, used, exploited or fabricated. This is related to a fourth dimension, time pace. In policy making, there are time rules and temporal practices involved (Dyson, 2009; Kovats, 2009). These can be influenced by certain parties, for example by ‘keepers of the clock’ and by using time budgets and time horizons (Voß, Smith, & Grin, 2009). We argue that time has been given little attention in policy studies, despite it being very important for the occurrence and assessment of policy success and failure. We therefore explore the conceptualization of time in relation to policy failure. We will study the concept of time in four diverse papers, based on research in four different policy domains in the Netherlands. The articles advance the debate by a) exploring different facets of time and how they affect and explain policy failures, b) debating the status of time in different theoretical traditions in political and policy analysis, c) reflect on the way time can be influenced and used by policy makers. The panel will consist of four papers focusing on different ‘time’ dimensions in policy failure: time frames, temporal patterns, time pace and timing.