Policy in Practice: Delivering Public Value (GSOG6001)

This unit examines the design, implementation and evaluation of policy in contemporary democracies. Reflecting the varying roles of the public sector - for example, regulator, service provider and law-maker - policy is approached as an exercise that occurs within specific institutional, historical, political and economic contexts rather than an abstract ideal. Through tailored case studies, this unit will explore issue-identification and framing, consultation, decision making, implementation and evaluation.

Government is increasingly understood as a generator of public value, and effective policy is the central mechanism through which public value is delivered. Focusing on practitioner perspectives, the unit explores relevant theoretical and analytical frameworks. Throughout the unit there is an emphasis on the need for policy which is informed by the best available evidence and which, as much as possible, actively engages citizens and builds trust in public institutions and services. National and international policy transfer, the impact of globalisation and the challenges of the information explosion will be considered.

Learning Style

The unit is geared to the needs and interests of senior public servants. It is designed to build upon and extend the knowledge of participants. To this end, the unit will have a strong practitioner focus that blends theoretical insights with actual examples where abstract ideas have been tested against experience.

The pedagogical techniques employed will emphasise adult learning approaches such as independent research, case-study analysis, problem-based learning and active engagement with study materials. External experts from the public sector, business and non-government organisations will complement traditional sources of information.

Learning Outcomes

  • Appreciation of the historical and contemporary roles of the public sector and the contexts in which public policies are made and implemented.
  • Engagement with the concept of 'public value' and its application to policy design, implementation and evaluation.
  • Appreciation of the institutional and political contexts within which policy decisions are made, programs are implemented, and services delivered, including policy as an instrument of social change.
  • Familiarity with the major theoretical frameworks and techniques of policy analysis and their practical applications.
  • Knowledge of the core institutions and processes through which public policy is developed.
  • Critical analysis of opinion polls, use of statistical techniques and evaluation of evidence.
  • Strengthened ability to identify and evaluate alternative interpretations of an issue and to present evidence and argument in support of a particular position.
  • Skills in rapidly identifying, locating and analysing data.
  • Effective use of libraries, electronic databases, the Internet, scholarly and practice-based information and statistical data sets.
  • Experience in understanding and applying techniques such as project planning and management, media management in implementation.
  • Effective verbal and written communication.


In keeping with the emphasis on blending theory and practice and drawing upon adult learning styles, assessment will involve a mix of tasks and assignments such as:

  • case-study analysis
  • individual or small-group research projects
  • simulation exercises (possibly involving international collaboration), and
  • critical commentaries on assigned readings

A typical assessment schedule would be: a 4000-word case study based on independent research (40 per cent), participation in a policy-making simulation exercise (20 per cent), contributions to an online forum (20 per cent), and an in-class oral presentation (20 per cent).

Contact Hours and Private Study

The unit will be offered in 'intensive semester' mode. This will involve seven full days (42 hours) of class contact spread over 10 weeks (incorporating a three-week break for reading, reflection and writing). In keeping with the University of Sydney's expectations, face-to-face contact will be complemented by private study, including the completion of assessment tasks.

Indicative Topics

  • Historical and contemporary roles and constraints on public sectors
  • The concept of 'public value'
  • Policy design and implementation
  • Information for decision making
  • Joined-up policy making and service delivery
  • Evidence-based policy
  • Strategic thinking and planning
  • Project, resource and risk management
  • Engaging an increasingly educated and informed public
  • Models of active citizenship and participation
  • Public policy and democracy
  • Public engagement in service provision and evaluation
  • Communicating public value and performance
  • Production of policy documents

Indicative Readings

  • Beresford Q (2000) Governments, Markets and Globalisation, Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards NSW
  • Bridgman P and Davis G (2000) Australian Policy Handbook, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW
  • Colebatch H (1998) Policy, Open University Press, Milton Keynes
  • John P (1998) Analysing Public Policy, Pinter, London
  • Majone G (1989) Evidence, Argument and Persuasion in the Policy Process, Yale University Press, New Haven
  • Moore Mark H (1995) Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government, Harvard University Press
  • Parsons D (1995) Public Policy: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis, Edward Elgar, Aldershot UK
  • Public Management Foundation (1996) The Glue that Binds: Public Value of Public Services, London
  • Radin B (2000) Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Comes of Age Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press
  • Stone D (1997) Policy Paradox, W W Norton, New York