Most policy-relevant work on climate change in the social sciences either analyzes costs and benefits of particular policy options against important but often narrow sets of objectives or attempts to explain past successes or failures. We argue that an "applied forward reasoning" approach is better suited for social scientists seeking to address climate change, which we characterize as a "super wicked" problem comprising four key features: time is running out; those who cause the problem also seek to provide a solution; the central authority needed to address it is weak or non-existent; and, partly as a result, policy responses discount the future irrationally. These four features combine to create a policy-making "tragedy" where traditional analytical techniques are ill equipped to identify solutions, even when it is well recognized that actions must take place soon to avoid catastrophic future impacts. To overcome this tragedy, greater attention must be given to the generation of path-dependent policy interventions that can "constrain our future collective selves." Three diagnostic questions result that orient policy analysis toward understanding how to trigger sticky interventions that, through progressive incremental trajectories, entrench support over time while expanding the populations they cover. Drawing especially from the literature on path dependency, but inverting it to develop policy responses going forward, we illustrate the plausibility of our framework for identifying new areas of research and new ways to think about policy interventions to address super wicked problems.
This article is concerned with governance of long term socio-technical transitions required to orient development trajectories of advanced industrial counties along more sustainable lines. It discusses the contribution that 'transition management' can make to such processes, emphasizes the irreducibly political character of governance for sustainable development, and suggests that the long-term transformation of energy systems will prove to be a messy, conflictual, and highly disjointed process.
This article seeks to shed new light on the study of decentralized natural resource governance by applying institutional theories of polycentricity-the relationships among multiple authorities with overlapping jurisdictions. The emphasis on multi-level dynamics has not penetrated empirical studies of environmental policy reforms in nonindustrial countries. On the contrary, many of today's decentralization proponents seem to be infatuated with the local sphere, expecting that local actors are always able and willing to govern their natural resources effectively. Existing studies in this area often focus exclusively on characteristics and performance of local institutions. While we certainly do not deny the importance of local institutions, we argue that institutional arrangements operating at other governance scales-such as national government agencies, international organizations, NGOs at multiple scales, and private associations-also often have critical roles to play in natural resource governance regimes, including self-organized regimes.
Long-term policy is enjoying something of a come-back in connection with sustainable development. The current revival tries to avoid the pitfalls of an earlier generation of positivistic long-range planning and control approaches. Instead, this new generation of policy design emphasises reflexive governance concepts. These aim at inducing and navigating complex processes of socio-technical change by means of deliberation, probing and learning. A practical expression of this move that is attracting growing international attention amongst researchers and practitioners is the policy of Transition Management' (TM) in the Netherlands. This article takes stock of TM implementation experience to date and discusses the critical issues it raises for long-term policy design. The article provides a framework and synthesis for this Special Issue, which comprises articles that address a range of those issues in more depth. We highlight three critical issues: the politics of societal learning, contextual embedding of policy design and dynamics of the design process itself. This leads us to propose a view on policy design as a contested process of social innovation. Our conclusion considers implications for continued work on designing transition management in practice as well as the reflexive capacities of democratic politics.
This article develops the concept of "Functional Regulatory Space" (FRS) in order to analyze the new forms of State action addressing (super) wicked problems. A FRS simultaneously spans several policy sectors, institutional territories and levels of government. It suggests integrating previous policy theories that focused on "boundary-spanning regime," "territorial institutionalism" or multi-level governance. The FRS concept is envisaged as a Weberian "ideal-type" of State action and is applied to the empirical study of two European cases of potential FRS: the integrated management of water basins and the regulation of the European sky through functional airspace blocks. It will be concluded that the current airspace regulation does match the ideal-type of FRS any better than the water resource regulation does. The next research step consists in analyzing the genesis and institutionalization of potential FRS addressing other (super) wicked problems such as climate change and economic, security, health and immigration issues in different institutional contexts as well as at various levels of governance.
The role of policy integration in the governance of cross-cutting policy problems has attracted increasing scholarly attention in recent years. Nevertheless, the concept of policy (dis)integration is still under theorized, particularly regarding its inherent processual nature. The main argument of this paper is that policy integration should be understood as a process that entails various elements that do not necessarily move in a concerted manner but may develop at different paces or even in opposite directions. To study such dynamic integration pathways, the paper proposes a multi-dimensional framework. Drawing on existing literature, the framework distinguishes four dimensions of integration: (1) policy frame, (2), subsystem involvement, (3) policy goals, and (4) policy instruments. For each of these dimensions, we describe different manifestations that are associated with lesser or more advanced degrees of policy integration within a governance system. Apart from offering an innovative theoretical approach that does justice to the dynamic and oftentimes asynchronous nature of integration processes, the framework allows for holding decision-makers accountable for promises they make about enhancing policy integration. Simultaneously, it is argued that the merit of lower degrees of integration should not be underestimated, as these may sometimes be the most feasible or appropriate for the governance of a cross-cutting problem.
In acknowledgement of the complexity of environmental challenges, research on learning in environmental policy has grown substantially over the past two decades across a range of disciplines. Despite this growth, there are few comprehensive assessments of the literature on learning in environmental policy. This article fills this gap by providing insights on the overall coherence and impact of this body of scholarship. To do so, we analyze a sample of 163 articles from 2004 to 2014 using a standardized coding framework. The results provide an in-depth assessment of the status of the literature on learning in the context of environmental policy, as well as the quality of the literature. We demonstrate that despite the diversity in research questions and goals, the literature is lacking with respect to diversity in cases and context, theoretical development, clear conceptualization and operationalization of learning, and advancements in empirical approaches to study learning. From these insights, we discuss the challenges and opportunities for scholars in studying learning and provide recommendations for building the theoretical and methodological rigor of the field.
Policy design as a field of inquiry in policy studies has had a chequered history. After a promising beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the field languished in the 1990s and 2000s as work in the policy sciences focused on the impact on policy outcomes of metachanges in society and the international environment. Both globalization and governance studies of the period ignored traditional design concerns in arguing that changes at this level predetermined policy specifications and promoted the use of market and collaborative governance (network) instruments. However, more recent work re-asserting the role of governments both at the international and domestic levels has revitalized design studies. This special issue focuses on recent efforts in the policy sciences to reinvent, or more properly, 're-discover' the policy design orientation in light of these developments. Articles in the issue address leading edge issues such as the nature of design thinking and expertise in a policy context, the temporal aspects of policy designs, the role of experimental designs, the question of policy mixes, the issue of design flexibility and resilience and the criteria for assessing superior designs. Evidence and case studies deal with design contexts and processes in Canada, China, Singapore, the UK, EU, Australia and elsewhere. Such detailed case studies are necessary for policy design studies to advance beyond some of the strictures placed in their way by the reification of, and over-emphasis upon, only a few of the many possible kinds of policy designs identified by the 1990s and early 2000s literature.
Policy goals and means exist at different levels of abstraction and application and policies can be seen to be comprised of a number of components or elements, not all of which are as amenable to (re) design as others. Defining and thinking about polices and policy-making in this way is very useful because it highlights how policy design is all about the effort to match goals and instruments both within and across categories. That is, successful policy design requires (1) that policy aims, objectives, and targets be coherent; (2) that implementation preferences, policy tools and tool calibrations should also be consistent; and (3) that policy aims and implementation preferences; policy objectives, and policy tools; and policy targets and tool calibrations, should also be congruent and convergent. Policy instrument choices can thus be seen to result from a nested or embedded relationship within a larger framework of established governance modes and policy regime logics. In this contextual model, the range of choices left at the level of concrete targeted policy instrument calibrations—the typical subject of policy tool analysis—is restricted by the kinds of decisions made about policy objectives and the appropriate tools to attain them, and both of these, in turn, by the kind of choices made at the highest level setting out general policy aims and implementation preferences.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) aims to better integrate social and environmental concerns into business routines on a voluntary basis. The present article is concerned with the political side of the management approach. By systematically characterising the public policies on CSR throughout Europe, it first complements the existing, often unsystematic, accounts of how governments address CSR (mostly provided in management journals). Second, it also brings the issue closer to political science. After explaining why governments show interest in CSR, the article introduces CSR as a voluntary contribution to sustainable development. It then develops a typology of CSR policies that distinguishes five types of policy instruments (legal, economic, informational, partnering and hybrid) and four thematic fields of action (raise awareness, improve transparency, foster socially responsible investment and lead by example). Based on this systematic description of CSR policies, the article explores what CSR and the respective public policies imply for business-government relations as well as the changing patterns of regulation. It concludes that CSR started out as a neo-liberal concept that helped to downscale government regulations, but that it has in turn matured into a more progressive approach of societal co-regulation in recent years. Regarding the effectiveness and the opportunity costs of this new pattern of governance, the article emphasises that the respective assessment gaps should be filled by case study research.
The Paris Agreement of 2015 marks a formal shift in global climate change governance from an international legal regime that distributes state commitments to solve a collective action problem to a catalytic mechanism to promote and facilitate transformative pathways to decarbonization. It does so through a system of nationally determined contributions, monitoring and ratcheting up of commitments, and recognition that the practice of climate governance already involved an array of actors and institutions at multiple scales. In this article, we develop a framework that focuses on the politics of decarbonization to explore policy pathways and mechanisms that can disrupt carbon lock-in through these diverse, decentralized responses. It identifies political mechanisms—normalization, capacity building, and coalition building—that contribute to the scaling and entrenchment of discrete decarbonization initiatives within or across jurisdictions, markets, and practices. The role for subnational (municipal, state/provincial) climate governance experiments in this new context is especially profound. Drawing on such cases, we illustrate the framework, demonstrate its utility, and show how its political analysis can provide insight into the relationship between climate governance experiments and the formal global response as well as the broader challenge of decarbonization.
Solving complex problems is a challenge faced by many governments. Academic and practical discussions on how to solve said problems look at policy integration as a solution to the negative implications that fragmented government actions have on addressing public problems or providing public services. Notwithstanding important recent contributions, we still lack a precise understanding of what policy integration is, an explanation of how it differs from other “solutions” to complex problems, such as coordination or policy coherence, and a practical operationalization. In this paper, we argue that coordination, coherence, and integration are related but substantively different concepts. We offer a new way of understanding and observing policy integration in a manner that is theoretically distinguishable from policy coordination and coherence and empirically observable. We argue that policy integration is the process of making strategic and administrative decisions aimed at solving a complex problem. Solving this complex problem is a goal that encompasses—but exceeds—the programs’ and agencies’ individual goals. In practical terms, it means that, at every moment of the policy process, there is a decision-making body making decisions based on a new logic—that of addressing a complex problem.
This article focuses on the relation between agenda dynamics and multi-level governance for a specific type of policy problems: intractable policy controversies. It discusses migrant integration policies in the Netherlands as a case-study, analysing problem, political and policy agendas in the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam and on the national level, as well as the relation and interaction between these policy levels. The article shows that in a contested policy area like migrant integration, patterns of agenda setting often have a strongly level-specific character, leading to different policy frames and thus complicating modes of governance in multi-level setting. Precisely when the framing of policy problems itself is at stake, level-specific agenda dynamics will produce different policy frames also in multi-level policy settings. This makes multi-level governance in terms of effectively coordinating relations between policy levels to create congruence of policies between different levels a particular challenge when faced with this type of policy problems.
Proposals to alter large-scale socio-technical systems through government actions in order to promote goals such as sustainability are highly uncertain policy projects. What is being proposed is the replacement of specific elements of existing policy 'mixes'—the goals and means—by others, in the expectation of avoiding counterproductive or sub-optimal policy outcomes. While laudable, such efforts are fraught with risks; including the possibility of the creation of sub-optimal policy mixes or of failed reform efforts with resulting poor outcomes. This article develops a model and typology of policy regime change processes and outcomes following Thelen and others in arguing that complex policy mixes typically emerge through one or more of four processes, ' drift', ' conversion', ' layering' and ' replacement', and that the expected outcomes of these different processes in terms of their ability to meet initial expectations are linked to the manner in which policy goals and means are (or are not) combined in a consistent, coherent and congruent fashion. This propensity is illustrated through examination of the case of energy transition management as practiced in the Netherlands.
With the 30th anniversary of the policy advisory systems concept on the horizon, it is an appropriate time to reflect further on the concept’s utility, particularly in helping to understand the dynamics of system change and their implications for policy-making. This article provides diachronic analysis of the policy advisory systems in the classic Anglo-Saxon ‘Westminster’ family (Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand). Analysis focuses on five advisory units: the public service and central agencies, partisan ministerial advisers, external consultants, commissions of inquiry, and select special advisory bodies. The principle research aim is to compare these cases to shed light on advisory system dynamics through identification and analysis of shared and country-specific patterns of PAS change. We argue that the leading dynamics of politicization and externalization often used to characterize how advisory systems change masks idiosyncratic country patterns. We argue that differences in the tempo, intensity, and sequencing of advisory unit (de)institutionalization are clear in these cases and that attention to these dimensions of advisory system change add precision to understanding the organization, operation, and evolution of these systems.
There has often been a gap between policy intentions and outcomes in the field of natural resource governance. Analysing the factors for these discrepancies requires multi-level approaches that relate policy decisions formulated at the national and international level with the decisions of local resource users. A key asset of the Institutional Analysis and Development framework is precisely its ability to link multiple governance levels. Yet most commons literature has been limited to the study of collective action among local communities without considering higher institutional and government levels. To overcome this limitation, I posit for a methodological development of the framework, which bridges the gap between institutional analysis, power-centred and historical approaches, and discourse analysis. The application of the extended framework to the study of state afforestation policies in Vietnam highlights the need to simultaneously consider institutions, the politico-economic context and discourses across governance and government levels. As illustrated in this paper, such a framework does not only facilitate the analysis of policy shortcomings but also supports the design and dissemination of policy recommendations.
The systemic turn in deliberative democratic theory has shifted the focus away from seeking to design separate, internally deliberative ‘mini-publics’ and towards a new appreciation of their external, systemic quality. Yet, so far, such accounts have not gone beyond recognising a potential for mini-publics to contribute to deliberative systems. In this paper, we argue that a systemic conceptualisation of mini-publics must recognise their fundamentally ambivalent character: Since mini-publics have the potential both to foster and to undermine systemic deliberation, it is insufficient to celebrate their positive potential alone, and vital to develop frameworks that allow for a critical evaluation of mini-publics’ systemic role. To this end, we propose a framework based on the systemic qualities of deliberation-making, legitimacy-seeking and capacity-building, and conclude that key to mini-publics’ quality, when judged against these criteria, is not just their own features, but the degree of ‘co-development’ of all system components.
Policy feedback is a widely used concept, but many who use it only focus on the positive and/or unintentional feedback effects of certain types of policy. The literature as a whole is therefore poorly equipped to make sense of the negative policy feedbacks that often appear in more regulatory areas such as climate change, where target groups are put under pressure to shoulder concentrated costs. Advocates of the 'new' policy design have an opportunity to address this gap by exploring how policy makers approach the design of policies that intentionally generate positive policy feedbacks and/or are resilient to negative ones. This paper contributes to that effort by identifying the conditions under which specific instrument designs are likely to have opportunity enhancing and/or constraining effects. It relates these expectations to a design situation where positive feedback seemed unlikely, and hence, the challenge of designing locked-in policies was correspondingly greater. It concludes by drawing on the findings of this exploratory case to investigate what the 'new' policy design can do better to explicate the temporal aspects of design.
This essay translates some of the underlying logic of existing research of policy processes into a set of strategies for shaping policy agendas and influencing policy development and change. The argument builds from a synthesized model of the individual and a simplified depiction of the political system. Three overarching strategies are introduced that operate at the policy subsystem level: developing deep knowledge; building networks; and participating for extended periods of time. The essay then considers how a democratic ethic can inform these strategies. Ultimately, the success or failure of influencing the policy process is a matter of odds, but these odds could be changed favorably if individuals employ the three strategies consistently over time. The conclusion contextualizes the arguments and interprets the strategies offered as a meta-theoretical argument of political influence.
It is time to imagine a new policy sciences. The policymaking world has moved on since its first design. So too has our understanding of it. The original policy sciences were contextualized, problem-oriented, multi-method, and focused on using scientific research towards the realization of greater human dignity. We introduce a new policy sciences that builds on such aims. We describe the need for realistic depictions of ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’ choice, multiple theories to portray the multifaceted nature of complex contexts, and the combination of applied and basic research. To set this new agenda, we build on two foundational strategies: identifying advances in the psychology of decision-making and describing how policy theories depict policymaking psychology in complex contexts.