Interactive policy processes: A challenge for street-level bureaucrats

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Street-level bureaucrats (SLB) play a crucial role in ensuring better policy implementa- tion and generating trust between the system and citizens, according to the literature. In this article, we argue that Lipsky’s distinction between public managers and SLB needs an update. Today, public managers are increasingly expected to work closely and directly with affected stakeholders in order to solve cross-cutting ‘wicked problems’. Interactive and participative collaborative policy processes require public managers to move from back-office work to front-office work, in effect converting public managers into SLB. The key question raised is, thus: what kind of skills and capabilities do SLB need to engage in today’s more interactive forms of public policy-making? And what are the implications for how universities educate these groups?’ Drawing on a study of 32 urban professionals who work on the frontline in deprived neighbourhoods, we scrutinise the challenges and dilemmas that professionals face in their work with interactive processes. By distinguishing between ‘academic specialists’ and ‘academic generalists’, we are able to pinpoint and differentiate between skills needed for each of these groups in order to secure transparent processes that abide by the rule of law and support well-functioning local communities and, more broadly, the skills needed to secure democracy and econom- ic efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Administration
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)89-108
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2018


  • street-level bureaucrats
  • skills
  • capacities

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