The Theory- Practice Issue in Policy Implementation Research

  • O'Toole L
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Applying implementation theory to practice has been rare. Reasons include the diffi- culty of the theoretical challenge, the varied needs of practitioners and the complicat- ing normative issues at stake. Nonetheless, several approaches can contribute to the efficacy of implementation action. Building on points of theoretical consensus is one strategy. A second is the systematic probing of points in theoretical dispute, to sketch out practical implications. A third is the development of a contingency perspective to determine which theoretical strands may be appropriate in a given case. Finally, tapping the emerging ideas built on a synthesis of partial perspectives is ultimately likely to be the most useful approach. New methodological tools can help select out valid high-performing instances for systematic inspection and possible emulation. And some of the synthetic perspectives now available are amenable to heuristic application; these include approaches based upon reversible logic, game-theoretic notions and contextual interaction theory.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Evolution
  • policy
  • theory

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  • Laurence J O'Toole

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