Policy Advisory Systems

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Jonathan Craft (reference below, p. 13) draws on John Halligan (reference below) to produce the following depiction of policy advisory systems:

High government control
Low government control
Public service Senior departmental policy advisers

Central agency advisers / strategic policy unit

Statutory appointments in public service
Internal to government Political advisory systems

Temporary advisory policy units (ministers’ offices, first ministers’ offices)

Parliaments (e.g., a House of Commons)

Permanent advisory policy units

Statutory authorities

Legislatures (e.g., U.S. Congress)

External Private sector / NGOs on contract

Community organizations subject to government

Federal international organizations

Trade unions, interest groups, etc.

Community groups

Confederal international communities/organizations

Craft writes (p. 12):

“Studies of Westminster-style systems now characterize the modern executive advisory landscape as a complex web of policy advisory sources, many of which exist outside of government. …This is not to suggest that these developments have rendered the public service obsolete, but rather that a greater plurality of suppliers exist from which the executive may draw. Given this plurality of suppliers, it is useful to conceive of partisan advisers as one component in an overall policy advisory system – that is, an interlocking set of actors with a unique configuration in each sector and jurisdiction, who provide information, knowledge, and recommendations for action to policymakers (Halligan 1995).

“… Influence within such systems was understood as a product of the location of the supply and its proximity to government, as well as the degree of control governments could expect to exert over them, relatively speaking. The second control dimension was not specified, but barring the extremes set out above, and from a traditional textbook perspective, the elected government of the day was expected to be able to “control” public service supplies. Advisory systems are also quite useful in that they allow some analysis and categorization of shifts in components over time. Its original articulation was offered as a means to review Anglo-American systems and trace changes in such systems, the conclusion being that across the jurisdictions the overall trend was that “the internal government category has expanded at the expense of the internal public service. But, in turn, the rise of external forms has been at the expense of internal mechanisms (Halligan 1995, 159).”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Institutional Dynamics within Government (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Jonathan Craft (2016), Backrooms and Beyond – Partisan Advisers and the Politics of Policy Work in Canada, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

John Halligan (1995), Policy Advice and the Public Service, in Governance in a Changing Environment, ed. B.G. Peters and D.J. Savoie, 138-172, Montreal and Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 5 September 2016.