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The top-down system showcases: (1) clear and consistent goals—articulated at the top of the hierarchical environment, (2) knowledge of pertinent cause and effects, (3) clear hierarchy of authority, (4) rules established at the top and policy is aligned with the rules, (5) resources / capacity to carry our the commands from the top (Elder, 2011, lecture).The top-down approach is the rational comprehensive approach to planning.
This essay will discuss the starting points, premises, and relative utility of the top-down and bottom-up approaches within policy implementation.
I will account when the top-down and bottom-up approaches should be utilized depending on the nature of the policy and the task environment in which the policy is being implemented.
In general, Top-down implementation is the carrying out of a policy decision—by statute, executive order, or court decision; whereas the authoritative decisions are “centrally located” by actors who seek to produce the “desired effects” (Matland, 1995, 146).
The bottom-up implementation approach initiates with the target groups and service deliverers, because they find that the target groups are the actual implementors of policy.
First, street-level bureaucrats are usually not accountable to the people.
In this case, the local agents may intentionally subvert the elected officials’ policy goals and engage personal sub goals (Matland, 1995, 150).It is consistent with overhead democracy, whereas elected officials delegate implementation authority to non-elected public servants (civil service) who are accountable to the democratically elected officials.However, De Leon and Deleon (2001) point out that top-downers may implement [EPA] policy with standards that citizens do not understand, which might also circumvent their rational preferences.First, top-downers often initiate their analysis with the statutory language, which “fails to consider the significance of actions taken earlier in the policy-making process” (Matland, 1995, 147).Thus, implementors often engage cues from various groups, which differ in intensity and history, none of which may be reflected in the statutory language.Discretion may be a very good thing, especially when it uses expertise of people impacted by the policy to increase the likelihood of success and approbation.In bottom-up, one size doesn’t fit all cases, and so discretion may enable implementors to activate more useful practices or to ignore policy that will hamper the goal of the program.On the other hand, a regulator using the bottom-up approach in Chicago may overlook minor code violations for a bribe—since the mom and pop shop is out of code but is not a real threat to safety.The bottom-up model is thus a challenge to administration due to the reality of delegated authority, to the discretion allowed to different agents, which invariably causes a measurable variance of goal achievement.Bottom-up designers begin their implementation strategy formation with the target groups and service deliverers, because they find that the target groups are the actual implementors of policy (Matland, 1995, 146).Moreover, bottom-uppers contend that if local bureaucrats [implementors] are not allowed discretion in the implementation process with respect to local conditions, then the policy will “likely fail” (Matland, 1995, 148).