Exploring the Influence of Local Policy Networks on the Implementation of Drug Policy Reform: The Case of California's Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act
Percival, Garrick L., Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
The network theme has emerged as an important component in the study of policy implementation and public management (Hall and O'toole 2004). (1) As social problems become more complex and policy makers seek more local flexibility and greater choice in delivery of services, public policies are increasingly enforced and executed in interdependent "implementation network" structures that involves multiple public agencies, private firms, and organizations (for profit and nonprofit) joining together to provide customized approaches and creative solutions to complicated problems (Goldsmith and Eggers 2004; Koppenjan and Klijn 2004; Rhodes 1997; van Buren, Klijn, and Koopenjan 2003). Network governance represents a stark contrast to traditional hierarchical top-down policy making where compartmentalized approaches often fail to address social problems that transcend organizational boundaries (Salamon 2002). Central to network governance within the context of implementation is the idea that diverse agencies and organizations aligned in a nonhierarchical fashion and each with their own specializations can organize resources through collaborative efforts to create greater public value (Bardach 1998; O'Toole 1997; Schneider et al. 2003). In short, implementation networks not only involve collective action but also provide a framework of how individual actors or parts of many public and private organizations organize and behave in order to solve particular problems (Carlsson 2000).
There are a number of challenges relevant to network governance and network members charged with implementation (Milward and Provan 2000). Central among these involves overcoming barriers to effective collective action which are exacerbated by different cultures, policy goals, and administrative capacities among the diverse set of public and private agencies and organizations that constitute implementation networks (Hudson 2004). The challenges that result from implementing policy in an interorganizational network setting suggests that governance of implementation networks should be an important determinant of whether a policy is effectively executed within its original intent.
This article examines the influence of local (county) policy networks on the implementation of drug policy reform in California. Using a case study of California's Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA/Proposition 36)--a statewide law passed by ballot initiative in 2000 that places nonviolent drug offenders into mandatory drug treatment programs instead of prison--the primary goal of this article is to identify whether specific features of local implementation networks produce variation in policy outputs connected to the initiative. Specifically, this article addresses the following question: when implementation of a statewide policy is primarily carried out at the local level and where the nature of implementation networks is likely to vary across localities, do network structures and network behavior explain successful implementation (desired policy outputs) connected to the policy? Or in other words, do some characteristics of networks impede on the effective implementation of the policy while others work to facilitate desired policy outputs?
Much of the theoretical development on policy networks and implementation has relied on qualitative case studies that have been instrumental in highlighting the minutiae of social relationships within network settings (Provan and Milward 1995); but with the limited number of cases, it is difficult to assess the systematic influence of policy network characteristics on policy outputs and outcomes across different environments (Meier and O'toole 2005). Scholars investigating interorganizational implementation have recently advocated the need for empirical models that examine how systematic patterns of policy networks are related to desired policy ends, taking into account important environmental and client-based factors (Lynn, Heinrich, and Hill 2000; Meier and O'toole 2005). …