Policy by doing: Formulation and adoption of policy through government leadership

Chris Koski, Taedong Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Do government choices, rather than legislative policies (i.e., mandatory regulations or incentives), influence the choices private actors make? In this article we develop a concept of "policy by doing," which examines the power of government actions as hortatory tools to encourage other community members to act. "Policy by doing" can be an attempt to shape outcomes by providing symbolic leadership, reducing uncertainty, creating market, and telegraphing actions. Empirical analysis of privately held green buildings in 591 U.S. cities from 2004 to 2010 suggests that when governments increase their own commitment to green building for their facilities; private actors will be more likely to build green. We find that the actions of local governments, rather than those of state or federal, exert the strongest substantive influence on private decision making. Our findings contribute to understanding how governments can augment existing policy regimes by modeling the behavior they hope to inspire in other actors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-54
Number of pages25
JournalPolicy Studies Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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