Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy
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Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy

The Ground Floor of Government in Context

Edited by Peter Hupe

When the objectives of public policy programmes have been formulated and decided upon, implementation seems just a matter of following instructions. However, it is underway to the realization of those objectives that public policies get their final substance and form. Crucial is what happens in and around the encounter between public officials and individual citizens at the street level of government bureaucracy. This Research Handbook addresses the state of the art while providing a systematic exploration of the theoretical and methodological issues apparent in the study of street-level bureaucracy and how to deal with them.
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Chapter 18: Comparing public task performance

Michael Hill and Peter Hupe


Central in this chapter is the issue of how to compare public task performance. The authors argue that comparative studies of street-level bureaucracy can best be advanced through recognition of the tiered character of the relevant independent variables and by developing approaches to the explanation of the interactions between them. Making use of the three hypotheses about what may matter and how, as discussed in Chapter 17, may be helpful then. The conclusion is that all three – respectively, work setting, motivation and control – ‘matter’. However, the how and scope of that ‘mattering’ can only be analysed in the context at hand. The extent to which any of the three hypotheses contributes to the explanation of variation in public task performance will depend on the nature of that particular (institutional) environment. Hence, there is a need to work through the ways variables are to be defined in concrete contexts.

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