The turn to materiality in the social sciences and the performative approach (see The turn to materiality in the social sciences and Performativity studies of public policy and administration) enable the exploration of non-human agency in policy and administrative processes, including the performative effects that these non-human agents (such as governing technologies in the shape of scorecards, graphs and rankings) produce.
The research programme Policy Futures conducts such analyses inspired by the so-called instrumentation approach. This approach examines policy processes, and more specifically reforms and their implementation, by understanding governance through its instruments. As argued by researchers such as Lascoumes, Gales and Ravinet, one of the ways in which it is possible to understand soft modes of governance (see Modes of public governance) is by analysing their instruments and the processes in which these instruments are used. Following the instrumentation approach allows Policy Futures to address aspects of policy processes that otherwise remain invisible. Policy instruments are never neutral devices: they always produce specific effects and seem to bring about certain kinds of social and professional control. Through the instrumentation approach, Policy Futures explores the ways in which follow-up mechanisms, including evaluations, constitute vital elements of educational reforms. Follow-up mechanisms – how one chooses to measure progression and implementation – co-constitute the ‘quality’ and constitution of the ways in which policies work in a reform. What is measured and how are decisive in terms of which realities a reform can produce. In this way, the instrumentation approach enables Policy futures to conduct analyses centred on how certain policy tools and instruments co-constitute reforms and reform processes.