What has been your experience with the actions of "street-level bureaucrats" such as new government administrators, corporations, social workers, and police in the United States? How do these bureaucrats contribute to the success or failure of public policy? Do you think policy implementation would be improved if street-level bureaucrats were given more discretion?

Student experiences with street-level bureaucrats will vary from positive to negative. Bureaucrats at this level implement policies on a daily basis to a wide variety of clients, and their level of efficiency and commitment will contribute to the success or failure of policies. Increased discretion for bureaucrats would likely improve flexibility and client satisfaction.

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Students will like have varying experiences with “street-level bureaucrats,” those who are in charge of implementing the policies and activities of a government or organization on a daily basis. Some might have positive experiences of people trying their best to provide necessary services in a friendly and efficient manner. The workers in college financial aid office, for instance, are usually extremely helpful and willing to explain difficult concepts, even taking the time to assist students in understanding and filling out forms. Other students might have more negative experiences with impatient staff in a government office, for instance, or with social workers who may have good intention but try to push their own agendas on their clients.

Bureaucrats at this level of daily implementation certainly affect the success or failure of public policy because they are the ones carrying it out and presenting it to the public on a daily basis. If they are not committed to their jobs, if they do them poorly or fail to help people understand policies and how to cope with them, then policies will be less effective over time. If, for instance, the workers in the college financial aid office don't help students understand complicated forms, fewer student may actually receive financial aid, or at least as much as they might otherwise obtain. If, on the other hand, bureaucrats do a good job of explaining and carrying out policies and of helping people understand them, the policies are likely to be more effective and better accepted. If, for example, a social worker carefully presents a couple with the process of adopting a child or meticulously explains to a family the process of obtaining in-home medical care for a loved one, those clients will better understand the policies and procedures involved, and their experiences will be more positive.

Many bureaucrats become frustrated by the rules and regulations that sometimes prevent them from providing the services they would like to give. Sometimes, the government or an organization will require strict adherence to policies or procedures that are not logical or applicable to particular situations. If bureaucrats were allowed more discretion and leeway to meet the needs of their clients, policy might be better applied in a more flexible manner that would lead to greater satisfaction all the way around and a more efficient way of meeting needs.

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