Hal Kempley Colebatch

University of NSW
Social Science/Public Health

25 High View Road
Pretty Beach, NSW

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My interest is the architecture of public authority - that is, the forms and practices through which areas of collective concern are governed. I draw on analytical approaches from political science, public administration and organizational analysis to focus on the way that policy is used to shape thinking and practice in the managing of public concerns. I have taken a particular interest in the changing nature of policy work, the connection between policy discourse and participation, and with the relationship between academic modeling and policy practice. It is becoming clear that models of the policy process developed in the US may be far removed from the realities of the policy process in other countries (and, perhaps, in the US also). I have co-edited (with Rob Hoppe and Mirko Noordegraaf), Working for Policy, an academic-practitioner collaboration (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2010) and two other collections on the work which makes policy: Policy Work: an International Perspective (Lanham, MD, Lexington, 2006) and Beyond the Policy Cycle: the policy process in Australia (Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 2006). I am also interested in governance as a heuristic, and have been exploring the way in which the term is used to identify and explain apparent changes in the practices of governing; I co-edited a special issue of the journal Policy and Society on this subject. I have taken a particular interest in policy as a construct in use in the field of health care, which is a particularly complex example of the structuring of public authority, and in the place of non-government or quasi-governmental players in the process. My current research is concerned with policy as an area of specialist practice, the way that people learn to do policy work, and with the relationship between policy professionals and other professionals (such as health professionals). I am also (with Rob Hoppe) editing a Handbook on he Policy Process, to be published in 2018.

Knowledge, Policy and the Work of Governing, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, 17:3, 209-214, 2015
Abstract: The development of policy rests on skilled practice by knowledgeable practitioners – ‘policy work’ – and it is important to know what skills and knowledge this work calls upon, and where these are learned. Although there is substantial academic knowledge and courses in this field, many practitioners will argue that policy work is ‘as much an art as a science’ and is something that ‘you learn as you go’. This article reports on an exploratory study of policy practitioners’ accounts of their practice, what counts as knowledge, and in what contexts it is ‘useful’. We examine the discourses through which policy work is accomplished, the way in which people learn to do it, and the place of academic work in the constitution of these discourses. Drawing on our respondents understanding of policy practice, we discuss what more might be done to facilitate learning about the work of policy.
DOI: 10.1080/13876988.2015.1036517
(with Robert Hoppe) The role of theories in policy studies and policy work: selective affinities between representation and performation ?, European Policy Analysis 2, 1: 121-149, 2016
Abstract: In this article we intend to take a few steps to mending the disconnect between the academic study of policy processes and the many practices of professional and not-so-professional policy work. We argue, first, that the ‘toolkit’ of academically warranted approaches to the policy process used in the representative mode may be ordered in a family tree with three major branches: policy as reasoned authoritative choice, policy as association in policy networks, and policy as problematization and joint meaning making. But, and this is our second argument, such approaches are not just representations to reflect and understand ‘reality’. They are also mental maps and discursive vehicles for shaping and sometimes changing policy practices. In other words, they also serve performative functions. The purpose of this article is to contribute to policy theorists' and policy workers' awareness of these often tacit and 'underground' selective affinities between the representative and performative roles of policy process theorizing.
DOI: 10.18278/epa.2.1.8
The idea of policy design: Intention, process, outcome, meaning and validity, Public Policy and Administration, OnlineFirst, forthcoming First Published May 18, 2017
Abstract: While policy design is a relatively recent term in the social science literature, the concept itself is ancient. The modernist incarnation, from the mid-20th century onwards, is grounded in the applied social sciences: the systematic calculation of prob- lems, values, practices and outcomes. But in many ways, the confidence of the faith in systematic design was not borne out by experience. It became clear that rather than finding expert designers advising authoritative decision-makers and perhaps monitoring the activities of subordinate ‘implementers’, the world of policy was populated by multiple participants in distinct organisational locations, with divergent framings, con- tinuing negotiation on practice, and ambiguity in the understanding of outcomes. There is clearly a tension between the image of policy design and the experience of the activity. The response to this tension in the literature on policy design has largely been aimed at reconciling the experience of practice with the norms of instrumental rationality. It has tended to give little attention to the interpretive significance of ‘design talk’ in the process of governing. This paper argues that ‘policy design’ is an exercise in giving meaning – framing activity in a way that makes practices and outcomes appropriate and valid – and develops a more comprehensive analysis of ‘policy design’ as a concept in use in both policy practice and the analysis of that practice.
DOI: 0952076717709525
Making sense of governance, Policy and Society 33: 307-316, 2014
Abstract: Governance is a term which is widely, but not always precisely, used, and this article seeks to clarify what the term is being used to mean. In particular, it is concerned with whether it denotes a particular mode of government, or whether it is a broad category encompassing all modes of government. It focuses on the arguments about political practice on which the original claims about governance were based, and the evidence that there has been a change is political practice which demands a new label. It concludes with a discussion of the way that accounts of government are used in the practice of governing, and the incentives that this gives both participants and observers to adopt the warm but fuzzy term ‘governance’.
Colebatch, Hal. 2010. "Valuing public value: recognizing and applying knowledge about the policy process." Australian Journal of Public Administration 69 (1): 66-78.
Colebatch, Hal. 2006. "What work makes policy?" Policy Sciences 39: 309-321.

Substantive Focus:
Governance PRIMARY
Health Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY