How to Measure the Capacity of Government to Deliver Policy

Business team working in the office


The capacity of government to design and deliver policy matters a great deal to the success of a policy.


RAND Europe has undertaken a range of projects that aim to better understand the capacity of public administration. Our view is that capacity-building in public administration often needs to be seen as a strategic objective in and by itself.


Our approach has been to conceptualise successful performance based on those capacities exhibited by public sector organisations that have delivered successful programmes and reforms.

RAND Europe advocates the use of a variety of methods to ascertain the capacity of government to deliver policy. An effective diagnostic tool is a survey of those working in public sector organisations. RAND Europe has used a number of online staff surveys that asked the respondents to indicate the level of agreement or disagreement with a series of statements. We would also recommend gauging the perceptions of stakeholders, such as those who implement the policy on the ground and service users, to achieve a broad perspective on capacity.

In conclusion, public sector organisations are continually asked to innovate, implement complex programmes, and anticipate user needs. Having better knowledge of the capacity of those implementing policies gives crucial information on the likely success of an initiative in that specific policy context.


Further Reading

Bouckaert, G. and Halligan, J. (2008). Managing Performance: International Comparisons. New York: Routledge. (Good overview reference source; includes conceptual framework for comprehensive evaluations of performance.)

Bourgon, J. (2011). A New Synthesis of Public Administration: Serving in the 21st Century. McGill Queen’s University Press: Montreal. (Useful examples of managing reform programmes from Singapore and Brazil, and of outward-looking assessments.)

Halpern, D. (2010). The Hidden Wealth of Nations. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. (Explains the importance of achieving results in the civic sphere.)

Meyer-Sahling, J-H. (2012) Civil Service Professionalisation in the Western Balkans. SIGMA Paper No. 48. GOV/SIGMA(2012)1 . (Example of RAND Europe’s contribution to OECD Sigma work.)