Policy alienation (in Dutch: Beleidsvervreemding) refers to a framework which examines the experiences of governmental employees with new policies they have to implement. It can be used to describe the experiences of public professionals with new policies. Why are many teachers against educational reforms? Why do healthcare professionals resist new policies? The policy alienation framework can be used to assess such questions.

Articles and books on policy alienation

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Awards and grants for work on policy alienation

Why study policy alienation?

Currently, there is an intense debate on the pressures facing public professionals in service delivery. Many professionals show increasing discontent toward the policies they have to implement. In healthcare, one saw psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists demonstrating against government plans to implement Diagnosis Related Groups (Diagnose Behandeling Combinaties, DBC’s). Further, many secondary school teachers have had difficulties identifying with the Second Phase policy (Tweede Fase). These examples are not unique: public professionals often appear to have difficulties identifying with the policies they have to implement. This can have severe consequences for policy performance, and also for the working lives of these professionals.

To date, there has been a lack of a coherent, theoretical framework for analyzing this topic. In response to this gap, this study builds a theoretical framework for ‘policy alienation’. Policies in healthcare, social security, and education are analyzed, using both qualitative and quantitative techniques. We included policies which had a high level of policy alienation, as well as policies which were more positively received.

How can I use the policy alienation framework in practice?

In order to improve the academic and practical significance, an instrument is developed to measure the degree of policy alienation felt by implementers. This instrument can be used to first understand and then improve policy performance. See Tummers, L.G. (2012). Policy alienation of public professionals: The construct and its measurementPublic Administration Review, 72(4), 1540-1564. See also English summary of thesis, including questionnaire (PDF) and the Dutch summary of thesis (Nederlandstalige samenvatting, inclusief vragenlijst en stappenplan) (PDF).

What are the main conclusions of this study?

The conclusions of this study challenge the common assertions regarding the reasons why public professionals resist policies. For instance, we found that professionals often agreed with the business goals of new policies. They were unwilling to implement such a policy not because it focused on business goals, but because it would not achieve them. Furthermore, we nuance the role of professional influence, which is often viewed as an end in itself. What we saw is that it is more important for professionals that a policy is meaningful for society, and for their own clients, than that they have an influence in its shaping. For more details, see thesis, Chapter 10.


Video explaining policy alienation in healthcare (in Dutch). Source: Beroepseer

  • LarsTummers.com