Policy in a certain domain is often conducted by several players. The authorities play a major role and frequently decide on the legislative and implementing aspects. It is possible to establish policy along two paths. The first is to identify and then study problems in society or the economy. This bottom-up approach brings issues and solutions to the surface so that a decision can be taken. The second is the top-down introduction of decisions. An authority will formulate a vision that must be conveyed to the sectors involved.
Another possibility is to categorise policy according to scale and impact. We refer to the most theoretical and largest framework as strategic policy. This sets out the contours and objectives, but frequently without concrete implementation plans. The focus at tactical policy level is not so much on objectives, but the way something must be accomplished. The lowest and most concrete level - with pilot projects, for example - is called the operational level.
The way policy is conducted can be evaluated according to coherence, integration, efficiency and effectiveness. The purpose of the integration and coherence criteria is to find out whether an objective and the approach to achieving it are cohesive and comprehensive. Efficiency essentially evaluates whether a process or measure is being put into effect with the required diligence, but does not say anything about whether the objective will be achieved. Examining the degree of effectiveness reveals whether of not the framed policy will actually have an impact. Apart from these factors, it is important to be able to evaluate and adjust policy properly.
A policy-maker will often sit down with stakeholders so as jointly to work out a vision. In many cases the decision-maker will not be sufficiently expert in the matter under discussion and will enlist the assistance of advisers and seek recourse to research. It is possible to opt for an incremental policy or to choose a completely new point of departure. Incremental policy is where a policy-maker makes small changes step by step and awaits feedback. This approach has the advantage that changes can be reversed if necessary and there is no need to consider all policy options. From a strategic point of view, this is also a more economical way of taking decisions.
A person who wants to begin with a new start will make little if any use of pre-existing policy paths. The advantage of this approach is that it is easier to push through major strategic changes, but the consequences of making the wrong choice will be greater. From all this we may conclude that in the short and medium terms the incremental approach remains attractive, but in the long term there will be a need for a new start, or out-of-the-box thinking.
Conducting policy is not always a transparent business because of the numerous players involved and the fragmentation of policy domains. Particularly in a network-oriented economy, the overall complexity quickly increases. Consolidation then occurs by assigning clear roles to certain players and by improving communication and coordination. Logistical domains in Europe are characterised by a strong degree of interpenetration of supranational, national, local and inter-professional players.
An example of a multilayer implementation policy can be found in the 'modal shift' that Europe supports. This embodies a strategic vision where for sustainability reasons goods flows must be distributed more evenly over the different modes of transport. Consequently, there is a need for alternative modes to become attractive. The European Commission has formulated this intention but has to rely on the Member States to fulfil it. Central governments will need to consult with interest groups and logistical players in order to take concrete steps. One of the logistical players will then carry out a pilot project.
The results of several projects will be made known to the government for bundling and forwarding to the European Commission. With the benefit of feedback from numerous Member States, the European authorities will be in a position to adjust policy with a sufficient degree of certainty. The amended policy will then be fed back to strategic level. Although this interaction and multilevel control of policy becomes remarkably complex in practice, it is exceptionally innovation-focused provided that there is sufficient coordination.