School of Social and Political Sciences - Research Publications

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    Are policy tools and governance modes coupled? Analysing welfare-to-work reform at the frontline
    Lewis, JM ; Nguyen, P ; Considine, M (TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2021-09-11)
    ABSTRACT This paper considers the link between policy tools and governance modes – the characteristic ways frontline staff are meta-governed. It asks: Are substantive policy tools coupled to procedural tools (governance modes) that can guide local service delivery agencies and the work of individuals delivering welfare services? The substantive policy tools in this case are those typically utilised to reform welfare-to-work services: contracting-out of services and competitive tendering, and the regulation of quasi-markets. These are hypothesised to flow through to procedural policy tools in the form of corporate and market incentives and regulatory (bureaucratic) methods that shape how work is done (governance modes), privileging certain practice orientations at the frontline. Policy makers seek to shape these meta-level governance modes because they should result in systemic change, based on a reconfiguration of policy actors and their interrelationships, for both service delivery agencies and the individuals working in them. We identified four ideal-type governance modes (bureaucratic, corporate, market and network) and tracked which of these were dominant in-practice at the frontline in Australia and the UK at two levels: office and personal, at four points in time (1998, 2008, 2012 and 2016). We found that the dominant mode of organisation at the office level was corporate, followed by bureaucratic in both nations. But the bureaucratic mode had grown in strength over time, particularly in Australia, and as a personal priority for staff, as re-regulation occurred. The results indicate a coupling between substantive policy tools and governance modes at the frontline of welfare-to-work.
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    Quasi-Markets and Service Delivery Flexibility Following a Decade of Employment Assistance Reform in Australia
    Considine, M ; Lewis, JM ; O'Sullivan, S (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2011-10-01)
    In 1998, we were witnessing major changes in frontline social service delivery across the OECD and this was theorised as the emergence of a post-Fordist welfare state. Changes in public management thinking, known as New Public Management (NPM), informed this shift, as did public choice theory. A 1998 study of Australia’s then partially privatised employment assistance sector provided an ideal place to test the impact of such changes upon actual service delivery. The study concluded that frontline staff behaviour did not meet all the expectations of a post-Fordist welfare state and NPM, although some signs of specialisation, flexibility and networking were certainly evident (Considine, 1999). Ten years on, in 2008, frontline staff working in Australia’s now fully privatised employment sector participated in a repeat study. These survey data showed convergent behaviour on the part of the different types of employment agencies and evidence that flexibility had decreased. In fact, in the ten years between the two studies there was a marked increase in the level of routinisation and standardisation on the frontline. This suggests that the sector did not achieve the enhanced levels of flexibility so often identified as a desirable outcome of reform. Rather, agencies adopted more conservative practices over time in response to more detailed external regulation and more exacting internal business methods.
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    NETWORKS AND INTERACTIVITY Ten years of street-level governance in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia
    Considine, M ; Lewis, JM (ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2012-01-01)
    The systemic reform of employment services in OECD countries was driven by New Public Management (NPM) and then post-NPM reforms, when first-phase changes such as privatization were amended with ‘joined up’ processes to help manage fragmentation. This article examines the networking strategies of ‘street-level’ employment services staff for the impacts of this. Contrary to expectations, networking has generally declined over the last decade. There are signs of path dependence in networking patterns within each country, but also a convergence of patterns for the UK and Australia, but not The Netherlands. Networking appears to be mediated by policy and regulatory imperatives.
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    Front-line work in employment services after ten years of New Public Management reform: Governance and activation in Australia, the Netherlands and the UK
    Considine, M ; Lewis, JM (Sage Publications, 2010)
    This study examines the impact of administrative reforms upon the work of front-line staff in the employment services of three reform-oriented countries – Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. These changes have involved greater use of private agents, more detailed performance contracts, clearer expectations about outcomes for job-seekers, and increased competition between agencies seeking government work. The study compares the work characteristics and strategies of front-line staff in agencies in the three systems in 2008 and a decade earlier, using surveys. The results show that there are substantial differences in the level of tailoring and investment in these countries. There are three relatively stable modes of governance in these cases and the most stable of these types across countries and across time is what we term the corporate-market mode – more generally labelled New Public Management (NPM). Despite the expectations of theorists and of reformers, the role of network governance proves neither as stable nor as generalised as expected.
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    From Entitlement to Experiment: Industry Report on Case Studies of high performing providers
    Lewis, J ; Considine, M ; O'Sullivan, S ; Nguyen, P ; McGann, M (UoM; UNSW, 2018)
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    Policy Design as Craft: Teasing out policy design expertise using a semi-experimental approach
    Considine, M ; Alexander, DT ; Lewis, JM (Wiley, 2014-09)
    Public policy research typically neglects the role of the individual policy actor with most accounts of the policy process instead privileging the role of governmental systems, institutions, processes, organizations; organised interests or networks of multiple actors. The policy design literature suffers from similar limitations, with very few authors paying attention to the crucial work of the individual policy designer or considering how the latter's skills, expertise and creativity are employed in the design task. This represents a significant weakness in our understanding of how policy is formulated. This paper outlines and previews what we believe is a potentially fruitful semi-experimental methodological tool for exploring how individual policy actors draw on knowledge, expertise, intuition and creativity in framing and responding to complex policy issues. Real-time scenario-based problem-solving exercises are used to explore how policy problems and solutions are framed and articulated by novice (first-term politicians and early career bureaucrats) and experienced (former cabinet ministers and senior civil servants) policy actors and to examine the strategies and approaches they employ in response to specific problem cues. Initial findings are discussed, and we conclude by advancing potential refinements of the instrument and directions for future research.
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    From Entitlement to Experiment: The new governance of welfare to work - Australian Report back to Industry Partners
    Lewis, J ; Considine, M ; O'Sullivan, S ; Nguyen, P ; Mcgann, M (University of Melbourne, 2016-10-01)
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    Explaining the Normative Underpinnings of Local Governance
    CONSIDINE, M ; LEWIS, JM ; SMYTH, PG ; JONES, A ; REDDEL, T (University of New South Wales Press, 2005)
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    Governance, networks and civil society: How local governments connect to local organisations and groups
    CONSIDINE, M ; LEWIS, J ; ALEXANDER, D (University of New South Wales Press, 2008)
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    Who are the innovators inside government? The importance of networks
    CONSIDINE, M ; LEWIS, J ; ALEXANDER, D (The University of Melbourne, 2008)