Implementation tools are the policy instruments most often studied. They affect either the content or processes of policy implementation, that is, which alter the way goods and services are delivered to the public or the manner in which such implementation processes take place (Howlett 2000). Many of the distinctions and categorizations developed to examine implementation tools remain useful in examining other types of tools as well.
One common category of implementation instrument thus, for example, proposes to alter the actual substance of the kinds of day-to-day production, distribution and consumption activities carried out in society, while the other focuses upon altering political or policy behaviour in the process of the articulation of implementation goals and means. ‘Substantive’ implementation instruments are those used to directly affect the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in society while ‘’procedural’ implementation instruments accomplish the second purpose (Ostrom 1986; Howlett 2000 and 2005).
That is, at their most basic level, all government tools fall into two types depending on their general goal orientation: one type proposes to alter the actual substance of the kinds of activities carried out by citizens going about their day-to-day tasks, while the other focuses more upon altering political or policy behaviour in the process of the articulation of policy goals and means. ‘Procedural’ policy tools are used to accomplish the latter purposes, while ‘substantive’ policy instruments are those used to more directly affect the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in society (Howlett, 2000). Substantive instruments are thus expected to alter some aspect of the production, distribution and delivery of goods and services in society: broadly conceived to include both mundane goods and services (like school lunches) as well as a range of vices and virtues from crude vices (such as gambling or illicit drug use) to more common individual virtues (such as charitable giving or volunteer work with the physically challenged); to the attainment of sublime collective goals (like peace and security, sustainability and well-being) and are found at the implementation stage of the policy cycle, although, of course, discussed and decided upon elsewhere.
Procedural tools, on the other hand, affect production, consumption and distribution processes only indirectly, instead affecting the behaviour of actors involved in policy-making. These actors are arrayed in policy networks which are comprised of very simple arrangements of nodes (actors) and links (relationships), but which can result in very complex structures and interaction patterns. Policy networks include sets of formal institutional and informal relational linkages between governmental and other policy actors which are typically structured around shared beliefs and interests in public policy making and implementation. In order to pursue their preferred policy initiatives, governments must interact with other state and non-state actors who might possess diverging interests (Leik, 1992). They use procedural tools to alter the behaviour of policy network members involved in policy-making processes. They are only tangentially related to productive or consumptive behaviour, if at all and figure more clearly at stages such as agenda-setting
Howlett, M. (2000). ”Managing the ”Hollow State”: Procedural Policy Instruments and Modern Governance.” Canadian Public Administration 43(4): 412‐431.
Leik, Robert K. “New Directions for Network Exchange Theory: Strategic Manipulation of Network Linkages,” Social Networks, 14 (1992), 309‐23