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LIMITATIONS IN POLICY IMPLEMENTATION RESEARCH: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE


SYMPOSIUM
Author(s): James D. Slack
Source: Public Administration Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1/2 (SPRING 2005-SUMMER 2005), pp. 36
Published by: SPAEF
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LIMITATIONS
RESEARCH:
SYMPOSIUM

IN
AN

IMPLEMENTATION
POLICY
THE
TO
INTRODUCTION

James D. Slack
The Universityof Alabama at Birmingham
Successful

policy implementation fundamentally


means "change" from both organizational and policy
perspectives and, hence, the implementation process is
actually a challenge to make change happen. Beginning
with seminal contributions from Martha Derthick (1970 &
1972) and JeffreyPressman and Aaron Wildavsky (1973),
scholars have tried to explain if and how change might
occur by viewing the implementationprocess from a variety
of conceptual vantage points along a continuum from the
policy decision (e.g., Van Meter and Van Horn, 1975;
Mazmanian and Sabatier, 1983) to the persons and
organizations bearing most immediate responsibility for
implementing the particular policy decision (e.g., Lipsky,
1971; Elmore, 1979).
We have learned many lessons about the
implementation process since the 1970s, but we are also
mindfulthat more work is required. As noted by James P.
Lester and Joseph Stewart, Jr. (2000:109), "implementation
research at the advent of the 21stcenturyis at approximately
the same stage of development as was public policy research
more generally a decade and a half ago."
Although the
current state of implementation research is a function of
broader discipline-based shortfalls and an ill-defined
empirical science (Golembiewski, 1999), the limitations are
also the result of what we choose to study empirically.
Lessons learned have tended to be from the perspective of
implementingfederal laws, ratherthan policies originatingat
the state and local levels. For the most part, we have also

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PAQ SPRING 2005

avoided examining formal and informal agreements,


decisions not carrying the clout of public law, among
autonomous public and non-profit sector organizations.
Implementation research has also tended not to examine
new kinds of policies, affectingstate and local governments,
in the areas of technology, foreign investment, urban
planning, and welfare.
This symposium attempts to fill in some of these
gaps in the literature by examining the implementation
process from the point of view of policies originating from
state or local government.
Focusing on the Honda
Corporation's investment in Alabama, Nikolaos Zahariadis
and Leslie Morgan examine the concept of political power
from the perspective of local government shaping the
implementationof state economic policy. Barry L. Tadlock,
Anne R. Tickamyer, Julie A. White, Debra A. Henderson
and Benjamin J. Pearson-Nelson examine the issue of local
leadership in implementing state welfare policy, specifically
looking at the relationship between county commissioners
and state and county welfare agency directors in
southeastern Ohio.
Focusing on urban sprawl planning
the
examines
Michael
Howell-Moroney
policy,
implementation of land preservation efforts of county
governments in the Delaware Valley. Gregory D. Streib
and Katherine G. Willoughby investigate the ability of local
governments to implement necessary changes that permit
them to become "cyber-governments". Akhlaque Haque
concludes the symposium with his examination of the
of
challenges
implementing "information sharing"
agreements among local governments and non-profit
agencies in north central Alabama.
External funding for policy research is important.
L.
wish to thank the Joyce
Tadlock, et al.
Barry
Foundation and The Ohio University Voinovich Center for
Leadership and Public Affairs for financial support.

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PAQ SPRING 2005

Nikolaos

Zahariadis and Leslie


Morgan gratefully
the
Jefferson
acknowledge
County (Al.) Metropolitan
Development Board for awarding their department the Ron
Casey Fellowship that helped fund their project.
Manuscripts for this symposium were solicited
nationally, and each under went the normal double-blind
external review process. I am most appreciative of the
external reviewers: Stephanie Bellar, Department of
Political Science, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga;
Chandrasekhar Commuri, Department of Public Policy and
Administration, California State University at Bakersfield;
Jack P. DeSario, Department of Political Science, Mount
Union College; James L. Llorens, Department of Public
Administration, Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy
and Urban Affairs, Southern University; Frank McKenna,
Department of Political Science, Bowling Green State
University; Robert O. Schneider, Department of Political
Science and Public Administration, University of North
Carolina at Pembroke; and Bobby Wilson, Department of
Each
Geography, University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.
reviewer brought unique expertise and experience to the
task of selecting the most appropriate manuscripts for this
symposium.
REFERENCES
Derthick, Martha (1972). New Town in-Town Washington,
D C.: The Urban Institute.
Derthick, Martha (1970). The Influence of Federal Grants:
Public Assistance in Massachusetts. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard UniversityPress.
Richard
Elmore,
(1979).
Implementation Research

"Backward
Mapping:
and Policy Decision."

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PAQ SPRING 2005


Political Science Quarterly 94.

Golembiewski, Robert T. (1999). "Shortfalls of Public


Administration as Empirical Science." Public
Administration Quarterly 23: 3-17.
Lester, James P. and Joseph Stewart, Jr. (2002). Public
Policy: An Evolutionary Approach. Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
Lipsky, Michael (1971). "Street Level Bureaucracy and the
Analysis of Urban Reform." Urban Affairs
Quarterly 6.
Aaron
Jeffrey and
Implementation. Berkeley,
California Press.

Pressman,

And Paul
Public
and
Implementation
HaperCollins.

Mazmanian,

Daniel

H.

Wildavsky (1973).
CA:
University of

A.

Sabatier (1983).
Policy. New York:

Van Meter, Donald and Carl Van Horn (1975). "The Policy
A
Process:
Conceptual
Implementation
Framework." Administration and Society (6).

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