Innovation in government: The diffusion of policy and organizational change

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St. Clair, Rebekah
Isett, Kimberley
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Beginning in the late nineteenth century Woodrow Wilson (1887) proposed the idea that government can be divided into two broad functions: politics and administration. While the debate remains about the extent to which these functions of government are actually separated, Wilson contributed a critical part of how we think about public administration: that there are in fact different dimensions to government. These different dimensions are no doubt related in varying degrees (Svara, 2014), but where literature has been lacking is in teasing out the complexity of government by trying to understand the different dimensions, specifically how they relate to each other. To better understand these relations, the following dissertation looks at two dimensions of government that are theoretically and practically designed to change to meet the needs of their communities. Specifically, I ask: how is the policy-making function of government related to the administrative/organizational function in multilevel systems of government? Here, I examine the extent to which these two different types of change are driven by the same factors. Due to the interwoven nature of our federalist system, I further examine how these functions relate both over time and at all levels of government, and in two different cases: one where change begins at the federal government level and diffuses downward, and one where change begins at the local level and diffuses upward. Using both logistic and qualitative comparative analyses (QCAs), I ultimately conclude that change is not just change. Policy and organizational change are largely driven by different factors; however, how these two dimensions of government differ is highly contingent on both level of government and origin of change.
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