An examination of the potential correlation between sub-national governance and policy effectiveness

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Summary

Research details

The aim of this literature review has been to explore whether there is a connection between subnational governance and economic, policy and social benefits for a given territory. The review has been guided by a central question: Is there a correlation between sub-national governance and policy effectiveness? The review confirms a global trend towards decentralisation over recent years. However, this trend has been highly differentiated in terms of scale, governance structure and policy outcomes. This review has explored the link between subnational governance and policy effectiveness across three specific dimensions: economic productivity, transforming public services and democracy.

Decentralisation is shown to foster the growth of local economies, increase the efficiency of public services and foster political participation when the right subnational conditions are in place. However, while there are links between subnational governance and policy effectiveness across all three dimensions, outcomes across the globe are variable and measurement is prone to distortion. In short, there is no clear and consistent evidence on the link between subnational governance and policy effectiveness. While there is clearly the potential for subnational governance to enhance policy effectiveness, policy outcomes are determined by a complex mix of macro political, economic and social traditions, the quality of subnational leadership and levels of civic support.

Research methodology

This review of the literature has been conducted between February and March 2016. It has been conducted in three key stages. First, a search of the academic journal databases (eg, Web of Science and Google Scholar) was conducted. The researchers used a variety of search terms, e.g. ‘regions’ AND ‘policy success’; ‘subnational governance’ AND ‘economic productivity; ‘decentralisation’ AND ‘policy innovation’ to elicit relevant materials. The aim was to cover materials that related to the link between sub-national governance and policy effectiveness in three key areas - economic productivity, transforming public services and democracy.

This search yielded over 2500 relevant articles, books and conference proceedings. Approximately 300 sources were selected for closer examination. Summary notes were taken and coded according to the following topics - trends towards decentralisation, economic productivity, transforming public services and democracy. Manual coding was then utilised to group together relevant sources in order to present the review and undertake the analysis.

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