Crafting Policy: The Tools of Government

This is an open programme and in-house training course. For further information and pricing contact [email protected] or phone on +44 20 7661 7817.


Governments have many and varied tools at their disposal.

So how do policymakers make sense of all these possibilities and think about the best tools, or combination of tools, to use for any specific policy? How effective will they be? How acceptable? How feasible?

One way of thinking about this is to adopt a ‘toolbox’ analogy. Christopher Hood suggested this approach and that there were just four types of tools available to Governments. He summarised these in his NATO model (no, not the military alliance).

This NATO stands for nodality (governments’ power over information); authority (power to make rules); treasure (power over money, taxation and spending); and finally organization (power to establish groups to do things).

Some approaches to policy can rely heavily on AUTHORITY and less on TREASURE or ORGANIZATION. Others tend towards ORGANIZATION AND TREASURE as their main tools.

Recent developments like ‘nudge’, for example, show a shift in thinking about how combining AUTHORITY (using decision-shaping) and INFORMATON (persuasion) can produce lower-cost policy solutions.

Who is this seminar designed for?

Policymakers at all levels and degrees of experience can learn from this seminar. The intention is to provide you with a well-tested framework to take a step back and (re)examine a policy or issue to assess what are the best ways of crafting a response.

How will you benefit from attending?

One of the most common elements of policy not managing to achieve what it was envisaged that it would do, has been identified as ‘group think’ or thinking along ‘tramlines’ as to how a policy issue has been tackled before. This session should help you, and your colleagues, avoid these pitfalls of ‘group think’ or ‘tramlines’. By systematically reviewing what ‘tools’ can be employed, a more holistic and innovative approach to policy problems can emerge.

Learning Objectives

As a result of participating in this highly interactive event you will:

  • Understand the ‘tools of government’ approach and how it can be applied at all levels of policy analysis and policy making.
  • Be able to re-examine existing policies or develop new ones using the widest and best range of tools for the job
  • Understand how certain combinations of tools best suit particular issues, sectors, or even countries.
  • Be able to share this knowledge with colleagues and teams to help improve collective efforts at policymaking


Session 1: Introducing the ‘Tools of Government’ approach

  • How do Governments get stuff done?
  • The NATO toolkit
  • Comparing policies, sectors, countries and political traditions
  • Tools as Detectors and Effectors

Session 2: Nodality

  • How do we ‘know’ a policy issues (detection)
  • Why are Governments ‘nodal’
  • A brief history of detection: from the Doomsday Book to the digital era.
  • How information can be used as an effector


Session 3: Authority

  • Laws, Regulations, Rules
  • As detectors as well as effectors
  • Informal Direction
  • Leading by example

Session 4: Treasure

  • Getting and Spending
  • Getting as effector and detector
  • Spending as effector and detector
  • Money and the economy


Session 5: Organization

  • Direct organization
  • Multi-level government and services
  • Arms-length Organization
  • Outsourced or partnership Organization

Session 6: Combining Tools to Craft Policy

  • This final session will be an open discussion about how this approach can be used in practice in response to participants questions and examples.
  • Participants are urged to think in advance if they have a specific policy issue they would like to discuss?


Trainer – Professor Colin Talbot

Colin Talbot is Professor of Government (Emeritus) at the University of Manchester. Colin has worked on and with public organizations and governments for almost 4 decades as an employee, consultant, adviser, trainer, educator, and researcher. He’s worked with everything from intelligence services to social services, parliaments and police forces. He’s advised a dozen or so governments from Japan to Canada, and the USA to Australia.

This is an open programme and in-house training course. For further information and pricing contact [email protected] or phone on +44 20 7661 7817.