Improving Program Design

Recommendations and Actions

What Can be Done to Develop and Promulgate Program Design?

Program design criteria are merely the foundation for more efficient and effective federal programs. To establish a credible discipline of program design, the criteria and the technology used in successful design should be developed more fully throughout the federal government. The following are recommendations for developing a formal discipline of program design.

DES01: Activate Program Design as a Formal Discipline

The President should direct the President's Management Council (PMC) to sponsor as a high priority project the development and publication of a comprehensive handbook that will enable federal managers and policymakers to understand the strengths and weaknesses of alternative program designs. [Endnote 1] This policy research should include but not be limited to:

--a complete review of the literature relevant to program design (e.g., program evaluation, public policy, policy implementation, public administration);

--the development of a comprehensive taxonomy of existing federal programs to highlight the important structural differences and similarities across the government;

--the identification of the different design approaches (i.e., tools and modalities) used in federal programs to serve the public;

--an assessment of the comparative advantages of various program designs under different circumstances across several federal agencies;

--a compilation of analyses of representative case studies that illustrate the consequences of superior and inferior program designs; and

--the creation of model designs for each program type (e.g., grants, loans, insurance, regulatory mandates, tax preferences).

This initiative should be completed on an expedited basis with the first products to be delivered within one year and the final products delivered no later than three years. This project would be funded through the National Science Foundation. External participants in this effort should include established sources of relevant expertise such as the National Academy of Public Administration, the Brookings Institution, universities, and other public policy analysis organizations.

A governmentwide conference on program design could jump start the development of program design by convening agency representatives, congressional staffers, state and local constituencies, academics, and other policy experts. The conference would have three objectives:

--survey the extent and quality of existing program design knowledge;

--identify specific opportunities for education and research; and

--develop a blueprint for a decade-long, governmentwide training strategy.

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