AMP Toolbox

Step 4: Implement the policy

Policy implementation is the translation of policy goals into action. This step involves the planning and monitoring of the policy implementation process as well as of the policy outcomes.

To be successful and efficient, the implementation and development of environmental policies depend on various factors as established through the previous steps. These factors include such as good governance, communication, shared common objectives and a vision, sufficient financial resources and influence, efficient coordination of actions, and stakeholder and public management, amongst others. In terms of social/political mandate, administrative capacities, budget and legal instruments should be in place. Also, all parties involved in implementation should be aware of uncertainties with regard to the designed implementation process and its outcomes, and triggers for policy adjustment should have been identified.

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Why is this step necessary?

Implementation is the core element of every policy effort and the ultimate goal of strategic policy making. Without implementation, policies are not put into action and cannot live up to their intent: to help establish desired changes in the real world.

Who should be engaged?

In principle, every party with an interest in the effects of the policy and its implementation should be engaged, although to varying degrees. In addition to the key players it is important to involve parties with less active roles as well, to keep them informed on progress and setbacks and to secure their continuous support.

How should this step be carried out?

In order to be successful implementation needs to be planned. A dedicated implementation plan should provide instructions that are both sufficiently flexible and specific about the actions to be carried out, including who is responsible for these actions and how they can be carried out. A timeline for implementation of the policy should be included. Communication channels for disseminating information and obtaining feedback from the actors involved should also be established, for example, checklists or plan-formats can be helpful.

Identification of potential barriers to success, and advice on alternative strategies to address such barriers, should be a key part of the implementation plan. Planning is needed for both foreseeable and unforeseeable problems. For example, when people from different agencies with different missions and little prior knowledge of the policy-making process are involved, the implementation plan should provide room to brief them, in case they may question their tasks or how to carry them out (foreseeable problem). In case policy implementation would be vulnerable to low probability – high impact events, the implementation plan should be flexible e.g. by incorporating fall-back options (unforeseeable problem).

Finally, a clear chain of accountability, continuous monitoring (initial success may turn into stagnation after a while), and periodical evaluation will draw timely attention to problems and obstacles. Monitoring and evaluation of the implementation process open up the possibility of learning from successes and failures and eventually improving the policy and this is discussed further in Step 5.

Key activities

What should be the outcome?

The outcome of this step should be that the objectives of the policy are met "in reality" and that the desired change is taking shape in the real world. Outcomes can vary from a grant scheme being put into place to the effect that less fish are taken in a given time period to protect a vulnerable habitat, to the legal designation of a buffer zone with restrictions for recreational use around a marine protected area to ward off disturbing effects, or to coastal waters becoming less polluted by the enforcement of regulations.

Examples: how did others do it?

The Management scheme for the Great Barrier Reef is implemented acting on four basic components:
- implementing policies (i.e. specifying locally appropriate actions)
- creating management systems that implement those policies
- creating partnerships with others where responsibility is shared and
- monitoring to determine system responses and providing a basis for management adjustments (Dobbs et al., 2011).

Further reading
  • Althaus, C., Bridgman, P. and Davis, G., (2007), The Australian Policy Handbook, Allen & Unwin, Crow's Nest, New South Wales.
  • Dobbs, K., Day, J., Skeat, H., Baldwin, J., et al., (2011), “Developing a Long-Term Outlook for the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: A Framework for Adaptive Management Reporting Underpinning an Ecosystem-Based Management Approach.” Marine Policy 35 (2): 233–40. Abstract

Several problems or issues can be addressed with the AMP Toolbox, in this case marine litter in the Mediterranean and Black Sea is used as an example. For more details see flag example.

Information on examples

To ensure successful policy implementation, several basic conditions need to be fulfilled. In fact, implementing a policy, does not only consist on getting the legal text ready, but also ensuring that those (i.e. the public) who will face changes under the new policy understand that this is coming, its meaning and its implications if the policy it is not complied. Moreover, it is useful to ensure that those stakeholders and experts who were involved in the earlier activities are also included in the implementation (i.e. “Involve experts and stakeholders”). Different organizations will need to plan their part of the implementation, which will involve financial or human resources allocation. Finally, successful implementation also requires that the regulatory and institutional frameworks will be in place, including the capacity to monitore and enforce the new policy. Accordingly, planning the implementation process and the actions necessary for putting the policy into practice is highly important (i.e. “Draw up an implementation plan”) to ensure enforcement and commitment from all actors. “Gantt charts”, for example, can be useful to organize actions along a timeline (see below).
For more details see flag example.