Fritz Sager

University of Bern
Center of Competence for Public Management

Schanzeneckstrasse 1
CH-3012 |  Visit Personal Website

Search Google Scholar
Search for Google Scholar Profile

current research focuses on the following topics - Policy failure, blame avoidance behavior and its consequences for democracy - governance, organization and locational policies of capital city regions that are not the economic centres of their country (secondary capital cities) and of small and medium towns in and outside metropolitan areas - the acceptance of policy instruments - the usage of evaluation results in direct democratic decisionmaking - the adoption, implementation and outcome of tobacco prevention programs in the multilevel setting of Swiss federalism

SAGER, Fritz, and Patrick OVEREEM (editors) (2015). The European Public Servant: A Shared Administrative Identity? Colchester: ECPR Press.
Abstract: European integration is under pressure. At the same time, the notion of a European administrative space is being explicitly voiced. But does a shared idea of the public servant exist in Europe? This volume shows how the public servant has been conceived throughout history, and asks whether such conceptions are converging towards a common European administrative identity. It combines conceptual and institutional history with political thought and empirical political science. Sager & Overeem's timely analysis constitutes an original effort to integrate history of ideas and cutting-edge survey research. It presents the subject's ideational foundations as well as its modern manifestation in European administrative space.
SAGER, Fritz, and Yvan RIELLE (2013). “Sorting Through the Garbage Can. Under What Conditions Do Governments Adopt Policy Programs?” Policy Sciences 46(1): 1-21.
Abstract: The paper aims at explaining the adoption of policy programs. We use the garbage can model of organizational choice as our theoretical framework and complement it with the institutional setting of administrative decision-making in order to understand the complex causation of policy program adoption. Institutions distribute decision power by rules and routines and coin actor identities and their interpretations of situations. We therefore expect institutions to play a role when a policy window opens. We explore the configurative explanations for program adoption in a systematic comparison of the adoption of new alcohol policy programs in the Swiss cantons employing Qualitative Comparative Analysis. The most important conditions are the organizational elements of the administrative structure decisive for the coupling of the streams. The results imply that classic bureaucratic structures are better suited to put policies into practice than limited government.
DOI: 10.1007/s11077-012-9165-7
Rissi Christof and Fritz Sager (2013). “Types of Knowledge Utilization of Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). Evidence from Swiss Policy-making”, Regulation & Governance 7(3): 348–364.
Abstract: Ex ante policy appraisals, such as Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs), are promoted because they are expected to inform decisionmakers and, thus, to lead to better quality regulation. Such instrumental use is not the only possible use of RIAs. Ex ante policy appraisal can affect the policy process in various ways. However, a consolidated theory on the conditions for utilization of RIAs in the policy process has yet to be developed. In order to explore these conditions, we analyze three case studies of Swiss decisionmaking processes and apply concepts from knowledge utilization literature. In conclusion, we find that policy arenas matter more than the institutional context and design of RIA procedures. In line with previous literature, political use seems to be a prevalent type of utilization. Yet we find that, under specific conditions, RIAs also provide a basis for the optimization of policy designs (instrumental use), help improve interagency relations (policy-process use), and may change how a policy issue is understood (conceptual use).
DOI: 10.1111/rego.12002
Sager Fritz, Eva Thomann, Christine Zollinger, Nico van der Heiden, and Céline Mavrot (2014). „Street-level bureaucrats and new modes of governance – How conflicting roles affect the implementation of the Swiss Ordinance on Veterinary Medical Products”, Public Management Review 16(4): 481-502.
Abstract: Lipsky’s seminal concept of street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) focuses on their role as public servants. However, in the course of new modes of governance, private actors have gained an additional role as implementation agents. We explore the logic of private SLBs during the implementation of the Swiss Ordinance on Veterinary Medicinal Products (OVMP) where veterinarians are simultaneously implementing agents, policy addressees, and professionals with economic interests. We argue that, because of contradictory reference systems, it is problematic for the output performance if an actor is simultaneously the target group of a policy and its implementing agent.
DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2013.841979
Sager, Fritz, Marietta Bürki, and Jennifer Luginbühl (2014). „Can a policy program influence policy change? The case of the Swiss EnergieSchweiz program”, Energy Policy 74: 352–365.
Abstract: This paper investigates the interrelation of policy implementation and policy change by addressing the question of whether and how the Swiss energy program "EnergieSchweiz" influenced policy decisions. We discuss different ways in which a policy program may in-fluence policy change: by negative and positive learning, by coalition building and by policy community building. Respective assumptions are tested in two case studies from the "Energie¬Schweiz" program, which was in place from 2000 to 2010. We find that, while the policy program was not critical for the policy change itself, it nevertheless played a role as an agenda setter, as an initiator of learning processes as well as through its policy community.
DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2014.07.005
Sager, Fritz, Eva Thomann, Christine Zollinger, and Céline Mavrot (2014). “Confronting theories of integration. A comparison of veterinary drugs regulations in five European countries”, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis 15(5): 457-474.
Abstract: This study moves beyond current perspectives of European Union implementation research to paint a comprehensive picture of the fine-tuning of domestic regulations beyond compliance. It compares the hitherto unexplored veterinary drug regulations of four member states, France, Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom, with those of the non-member Switzerland. It links causal mechanisms back to three differing theoretical assumptions about European integration. These theories are confronted using congruence analysis in a comparative case study design. Evidence is found for historical institutionalism and for the domestic politics hypothesis. The assumption of a neo-functionalist development of regulations is only weakly supported.
DOI: 10.1080/13876988.2014.960244
HINTERLEITNER, Markus, and Fritz SAGER (2015). „Avoiding Blame – a Comprehensive Framework and the Australian Home Insulation Program Fiasco”, Policy Studies Journal 43(1): 139-161.
Abstract: It is widely acknowledged in the literature that the study of blame avoidance behavior (BAB) exhibited by public officials is scattered and unconcentrated, and that, for the most part, it neglects both contextual factors and comparative research. These deficits inhibit the production of the kind of generalized findings necessary to better understand potential consequences for the policy process and the workings of political systems. We address these deficits by developing a framework that takes stock of blame avoidance research, clarifies the explanatory potential of contextual factors, and allows for a systematic context-sensitive cross-case analysis. For illustrative purposes, the framework is applied to the Home Insulation Program in Australia as a critical case. This case reveals the explanatory potential of contextual factors for the understanding of BAB and the consequences thereof. We conclude by stating the advantages of our framework and explain how it can be used for comparative research.
DOI: 10.1111/psj.12088
Sager, Fritz, Céline Mavrot and Susanne Hadorn (2015). “Addressing Multilevel Program Complexity by Evaluation Design”, European Policy Analysis 1(2): 90-110.
Abstract: In this paper, we present the evaluation design for a complex multilevel program recently introduced in Switzerland. The evaluation embraces the federal level, the cantonal program level, and the project level where target groups are directly addressed. We employ Pawson and Tilley’s realist evaluation approach, in order to do justice to the varying context factors that impact the cantonal programs leading to varying effectiveness of the implemented activities. The application of the model to the canton of Uri shows that the numerous vertical and horizontal relations play a crucial role for the program’s effectiveness. As a general learning for the evaluation of complex programs, we state that there is a need to consider all affected levels of a program and that no monocausal effects can be singled out in programs where multiple interventions address the same problem. Moreover, considering all affected levels of a program can mean going beyond the borders of the actual program organization and including factors that do not directly interfere with the policy delivery as such. In particular, we found that the relationship between the cantonal and the federal level was a crucial organizational factor influencing the effectiveness of the cantonal program.

Substantive Focus:
Energy and Natural Resource Policy
Governance PRIMARY
Health Policy
Comparative Public Policy SECONDARY
Urban Public Policy

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation PRIMARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation SECONDARY