Policy change and policy entrepreneurship in legislatures

A few weeks ago I have submitted my dissertation on ‘legislative’ policy entrepreneurs and how they achieve policy change. Here is a summary of what I have done and my findings:

The dissertation aims to contribute to the development of new theory about the way in which individual legislators work towards policy change. – Interestingly, none of the four frameworks (Incrementalism, Multiple Streams, Punctuated Equilibrium Theory and the Advocacy Coalition Framework) of the policy sciences that are most commonly used to explain policy change sees the actions of individuals as necessary for change. However, an increasing focus on the role of individuals in the policy process has led to a number of studies about ‘policy entrepreneurship’ as the drivers of policy change. This dissertation reviews the predominant theories of the policy process and critiques the complementary literature about policy entrepreneurship to enhance scholarship about the role of individuals in policy change. It specifically looks into one class of policy entrepreneurs, namely legislators, for which it also explores the works from legislative studies to investigate the strategies legislators pursue to achieve policy change. Hence, the research question of this dissertation is: How do legislative policy entrepreneurs achieve policy change?
In order to answer that research question an unorthodox qualitative research design is employed. It is based on a most-different, multiple case study which appears suitable to respond to the how question and to generate new theory. After a survey-based identification of legislative policy entrepreneurship across four different legislatures (Austria’s Nationalrat, the European Parliament, Indonesia’s DPR and the Philippines’ House of Representatives), a total of eleven case studies allows for in-depth exploration of what strategies entrepreneurs choose and how that choice is influenced by circumstances/context. The unit of analysis is the individual legislator (not the parliament) and the story of each case is established through a number of semi-structured interviews.
The study finds and eventually suggests as a theory primer that legislative policy entrepreneurs (LPEs) use a number of collaborative and/or transactional strategies. These strategies are endogenous prescriptions as to how they may most successfully and efficiently act to maximise the likelihood of policy change. Either networking or bribing is a necessary strategy for policy change. The former is associated with a collaborative LPE type and the latter with a transactional type. Collaborative LPEs are more likely to succeed than transactional LPEs and their approach is associated with much less risks. Both types also use a number of complementary strategies out of which four are most common (create a perspective, develop expertise, control the policy process, demonstrate staying power) and two are uncommon, and arguably risky (change public scrutiny, use offensive tactics).

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