Street-Level Bureaucrats are the public service (government) employees who interact with citizens directly, and hence the way they interact gives the main impression about the effectiveness of the implementation of public policies. They include -among others- public hospital doctors, police officers, inspectors of businesses, border officials and school teachers.
The term was first introduced by Michael Lipsky, a former professor of political science at MIT. Lipsky said that those bureaucrats have a high level of discretion of public policies, which in many cases lead to the failure of policy implementation, mainly when the gap between what the policy originally aimed to achieve and what those bureaucrats actually practice is wide.
According to Lipsky, there are two reasons for that level of discretion, the first is the specialised role that they are employed to perform, and in many cases in complex and demanding environments they work in, which gives them a high level of personal judgment. The second is that it is practically impossible to monitor the performance of such a large cadre, especially in provinces far from the center in large countries.
For example, a new policy might require early grade schools’ teachers to stay after work to give extra lessons to enhance the reading and math skills for students. However, without sufficient incentives and monitoring systems, it is next to impossible to implement such a policy. The result might therefore be a high level of discrepancy in implementing these policies due to many reasons.
In order to mitigate the impact of street-level bureaucrats on policy failure, the following should be done: