Interview with Eva Thomann
This presentation argues that the behaviour of those representing the frontlines of government policy is key to understanding the effects of policies in practice. Street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) are policy implementers who operate at the bottom of public organizations and are responsible either for delivering public services, or implementing sanctions. Their discretion makes them de facto policymakers, while their interactions with citizens crucially shape compliance and take-up. Hence, in evaluating policy, the link between SLBs and the end products of the political-administrative implementation process is critical. Five key points for evaluators are put forward. First, the outputs of policies are crucially shaped by the behaviour of SLBs who are boundedly rational humans. Second, SLBs’ attitudes toward policies are a key determinant of practical policy outputs. Third, SLBs cope with their work contexts and administrative burdens in ways that alter the outcomes for target groups for better or worse. Fourth, the personalities and enforcement styles of SLBs contribute crucially to policy enforcement. Fifth, heuristics and biases shape how SLBs react to policies and encounters with clients – with broader societal implications. For empirical illustration, we demonstrate how the behaviourally- informed Accountability Regimes Framework empirically explains SLB’s practical divergence from formal policies.