Changing a policy field? Policy design and collaboration in early care and education

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Rosemary O'Leary


Policy design, Collaboration, Early care and education, Child care, Head Start

Subject Categories

Education | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This research explores the inter-relationship between collaborative service delivery mechanisms or arrangements and the policy and institutional structure and design of a policy field. Examining inter-agency collaborations used to deliver full-day, full-year early care and education services in New York State and the Commonwealth of Virginia, this study is driven by the following research questions: (1) Why are inter-agency collaborations being formed in early care and education? (2) How do policy-level administrators' perceptions and beliefs concerning collaboration as a mechanism of service delivery influence the experiences of those administrators at the operational level of these collaborations? (3) How has the use of inter-agency collaborations affected the structure and design of the policy field?

The primary purpose of this study is to develop preliminary theoretical explanations and hypotheses concerning inter-agency collaborations in early care and education and their relationship to the structure and design of the policy field in which they are being utilized.

This study explores the motivations to collaborate in this policy field, concluding that there two kinds of primary motivations driving organizations to collaborate. This study proposes three different forms of collaboration found to be operating in this policy field. This study concludes that the vision and goals of policy-level administrators in relation to the use of collaborations have a significant impact on the collaborative form implemented. Finally, this study concludes that inter-agency collaborations at the service delivery level have not produced any fundamental changes to the structure and design of the policy field of early care and education at both the state and local levels due to institutional barriers present in this policy field.


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