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

Drorit Gassner, Anat Gofen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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