What is public policy success, especially in development?

Abstract:

Public policy work is hard, especially when one works in developing countries. It is even difficult to define what success looks like, and thus how to manage towards success. Literature helps manage such difficulty, providing studies that define the concept and show how it can be achieved. A core message from such is that success is multi-dimensional, and practitioner need to focus on multiple criteria when doing their policy work. But what dimensions and criteria matter? And do development practitioners really adopt this multi-dimensional view? Tackling such questions, the current paper reviews 45 applied studies from the public policy, project management and development evaluation literatures to see what they identify as key success criteria and if the practical studies (about development evaluation) are in sync with the more academic messages. Reading across all three literatures, I identify 30 potential success criteria in 6 categories or dimensions (program, impact and endurance, capability, political, stakeholder, and process). I find that the development evaluation literature focuses on a narrow set of 7 criteria, mostly in one dimension (program success) as compared to broader perspectives in the other literatures. This suggests that development practitioners have a narrow view on success, which is out of step with academic views on the topic. A conclusion proposes a broader approach for these practitioners.

CID Faculty Working Paper Series: 415