The effective exercise of influence in the public policy environments of organizations and interest groups, either individually or in collaboration, depends on having a basis for their influence and on knowing where and when to focus their efforts. Power is the potential to exert influence. It is the basis of influence in a public policy environment. Much like the sources of interpersonal power discussed in Chapter 3, the power that entities use to exert influence in their public policy environments derives from three sources: positional power, reward or coercive power, or expert power.
Positional power is based on an entity's place or role in the larger society. Organizations and groups have certain power, or potential to exert influence, simply because they exist and are recognized as legitimate participants in the marketplace for policies. Policymakers entertain the opinions and consider the preferences of the leaders of health-related organizations such as Baxter Worldwide (www.baxter.com), a global medical products and services company, or health-related interest groups such as America's Health Insurance Plans (www.ahip.org), a national association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health insurance to more than 200 million people, in part simply because they recognize these people, in their roles as leaders of important entities, as legitimate participants in the policymaking arena. An important aspect of positional power is the recognition given by courts to organizations and interest groups to bring legal actions as part oftheir efforts to exert influence. Positional power alone may gain a hearing for particular views or preferences. The exertion of influence, however, usually requires more and different power.
Reward or coercive power is based on the entity's capacity to reward compliance or to punish noncompliance with its preferred decisions, actions, and behaviors by policymakers. The rewards that can be provided or withheld by organizations, systems, and groups include money in the form of campaign contributions, as well as other forms of political support by participants in organizations and groups. Political support includes votes, but it also includes the ability to organize and mobilize grassroots activities designed to persuade other people on particular issues.
Expert power is based on an entity's possession of expertise or information that is valued by others. When seeking to exert influence in public policy environments, useful information and expertise may pertain to the definition or clarification of problems or to the development of solutions. Expert power also may consist of expertise in the intricacies of the public policymak-ing process.
Organizations and interest groups that can marshal these bases of power, especially when they can be integrated, can be very influential. The degree of influence, of course, varies from one entity to another. The relative amount of power each has is important in determining relative influence, but so too are reputations for being able to exert influence ethically and effectively and the strength of ideological convictions held by those who seek to influence. Whatever its bases, however, power is only one part of the complex equation that determines influence.
Leaders of organizations and interest groups must also be concerned about the focus of their efforts to influence their public policy environments. Typically, their focus is guided by the identification of policies that are of strategic importance to their entity in the scanning efforts described above, as well as by identification of problems, potential solutions, and political circumstances that might eventually lead to such policies. By focusing in this way, they will seek to influence strategically relevant policymakers in all three branches and in federal, state, and local levels of government. Furthermore, they will extend their efforts to those who have influence with these policymakers.
If leaders of entities are to influence the policymaking process effectively, they must, in addition to influencing policymakers directly, concern themselves with helping to shape the conceptualizations of problems, the development of potential solutions to the problems, and the political circumstances that help drive the policymaking process. The suppliers of relevant public policies, and those who can influence them, form the appropriate focus for organizations and groups seeking to influence their public policy environments.
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