Tools of Government Project (2000-2021)

The Tools of Government Project examined an array of tools of public action that have transformed the public sector from a provider to an arranger of services, with profound implications for public management and democratic governance.

These changes resulted from a major shift in the operation of the public sector in the United States and other countries during the latter half of the 20th century. At the heart of this shift was the proliferation of new instruments, or tools, of public action—including loans, loan guarantees, regulation, contracts, cooperative agreements, reimbursement schemes, tax subsidies, vouchers, insurance, and many more. Moreover, many of these new, or newly expanded, tools have in common a reliance on a host of third parties—such as commercial banks, nonprofit organizations, other levels of government, or for-profit companies—to implement public programs.

The adoption of these tools had, and continue to have, profound implications for the nature and content of public management and for democratic governance more generally. Those involved in public administration must learn not only how to operate public agencies, but also the distinctive operating requirements of the different tools, many of which involve complex collaborative relationships with private contractors, regulated industries, nonprofit agencies, and other levels of government.

The Center’s founding Director, Dr. Lester Salamon, played a pivotal role in calling attention to these developments and producing educational and other materials to promote their effective use. This included production of the pivotal text The Tools of Government: A Guide to the New Governance and the Tools of Government Workbooks, which can be downloaded here.

At the time of his passing, Dr. Salamon had initiated an update of the seminal 2002 Tools of Government text. The Center is happy to announce that two long-time colleagues have agreed to take up this monumental task with the support of Oxford University Press. A newly updated text is expected in 2023!