Vaasan yliopiston opinnäytteet

Hallintotieteiden tiedekunta, 2009

Järvinen, Tiia

STRIVING FOR RESPONSIVE GOVERNANCE THROUGH CONSULTATIVE POLICY MAKING: Regional hearings in the national plan for mental health and substance abuse work

Ohjaaja/Valvoja (DI):
Kirsi Lähdesmäki
Hallintotieteiden maisteri
Hallintotiede : European Civil Servants - kansainvälisen hallinnon ohjelma
Tutkielman kieli:
The main theme for this study is participation as an element of public policy making and more widely, a cornerstone of responsive governance. The main purpose for this research is then to gain a wider understanding of the essential elements of consultative policy making, its possibilities to enhance better responsive in public policy making and public governance. Via a case example, the various elements of responsiveness both in policy formulation phase and in the policy contents are pointed out. The research questions of this thesis are: What are the characteristics of consultative policy making? What is the significance of consultative policy making in terms of contributing to better responsiveness in the field of public administration?, and How is responsiveness in the policy formulation process and in the policy contents perceived among a) the stakeholder groups?, b) the policy formulators? These questions are further analysed by conducting both extensive academic literature review and themed key actor interviews to both the representatives of the policy makers and the stakeholder groups attending to the regional hearings in compiling the national plan for mental health and substance abuse work.

Based on literature and conducted interviews, consultative policy making can be characterised as a deliberative process which enables citizen- and stakeholder participation. Through well-defined structure and clear objectives the policymakers gather essential information to make policy decisions. The discussion thus concentrates on few, carefully selected themes. Consultative policy making can serve as a tool for informing, negotiating, persuading, motivating, networking or building up a common set of values and preferences. It enables reciprocal exchange of thoughts between policymakers and participants, although the emphasis is on administration listening to the stakeholders. Consultations can be built on wide surveys, citizens’ panels, public hearings and e-governing tools as well as exploiting the everyday contacts with the clientele of administration – the citizenry and stakeholder groups’ representatives.

When public administration is being responsive, it is reacting to the various needs stemming from the surrounding society. However, responding to these aspirations means that some kinds on value- and other judgements need to be made in order to decide, to whom the government is being responsive. In the case study, both the policy makers’ and stakeholder groups’ representatives thought that the need for this national plan exists, as does the aspiration to bring mental health and substance abuse fields closer together. In general, the hearing procedure and structure were commended, and the regional hearings acted as field’s inner networking opportunity. However, these two parties saw the target group of the final policy plan differently, and more accurate information about the proceeding of the formulation process and the actual possibilities to impact on the final outcome were longed for. Furthermore, both the policy makers’ and stakeholder groups’ representatives acknowledged that although the web-based discussion forum offered, in theory, a possibility for anyone interested to comment on policy themes, the incorporation of citizens and individual patients or clients into policymaking process should become much more active and further developed. There is a need for establishing more collaborative settings of formulating future policy frameworks. In this research, the levels of responsiveness appearing in consultative policy making are finally divided into three (somewhat overlapping) categories, according to the width and extensiveness of each level: macro-, meso- and micro level responsiveness.
Responsiveness, participation, stakeholders, consultation, policy making
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