Street-Level Management: A Clientele-Agent Perspective on Implementation

Drorit Gassner, Anat Gofen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


It is now widely accepted that public policy is not merely about its formal wording but rather the ways it is implemented. Implementation portrayals are not uniform: some focus on street-level delivery while others refer to managerial actions of different administration levels. Although varied, current implementation research overlooks the distinct position of chief executive officers of street-level organizations, who are overarchingly in charge of, and accountable for, the direct delivery of multiple policies to a local target population. This study distinguishes them as a unique public management category, termed here "street-level management,"and explores their contribution drawing on interviews with school principals, police station chiefs, and heads of social services bureaus (N = 78), as well as on official documents. Because street-level managers (SLMs) were found to approach their target populations as a collective endowed with contextual characteristics and a particular mix of policy preferences and needs, they are redefined as "policy clientele."To convey that policy clientele is the main lens through which street-level management is exercised, a "clientele-agent"perspective is proposed as complementing state-agent and citizen-agent viewpoints on street-level implementation. A clientele-agent approach is evidenced in SLMs' ongoing efforts to facilitate reciprocal relationships with policy clientele and in four street-level managerial functions-translation, adaptation, mobilization, and articulation. Uncovering overlooked collective aspects of street-level implementation and the involvement of policy clientele in direct delivery arrangements, street-level management allows for a more nuanced understanding of the interstices between policy making and direct delivery.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)551-568
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Public Management Research Association.


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