First published as a special issue of Policy & Politics, this updated volume explores policy failures and the valuable opportunities for learning that they offer. The book begins with an overview of policy learning and policy failure. The links between the two appear obvious, yet there are very few studies that address how one can learn from failure, learn to limit failure, and fail to learn. The book attempts to bring the two together. In doing so, it explores how dysfunctional forms of policy learning impact policy failure at the meso-level. The book expands on this by demonstrating how different learning processes generated by actors at the meso-level mediate the extent to which policy transfer is a success or failure. It re-assesses some of the literature on policy transfer and policy diffusion, in light of ideas as to what constitutes failure, partial failure, or limited success. This is followed by an examination of situations in which the incentives of partisanship can encourage a government to actively seek to exacerbate an existing policy failure rather than to repair it. The book studies the connections between repeated assessments of policy failure and subsequent opportunities for system-wide policy learning and reform. Finally, it introduces the idea of ‘policy myopia’ as a pressing source of failure in policy making and explores the possibility of developing policies that learn to help mitigate its impacts.
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ISBN 978-1-4473-5201-3 (ePdf)
ISBN 978-1-4473-5202-0 (ePub)
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7.1Typology of uncertainties by options, outcomes and values 137
7.2Policy maker’s knowledge and comprehension matrix 138
7.3Different kinds of risk faced by policy makers and potential solutions 139
7.4Characteristics of different types of uncertainty 139
2.1Organisational capacities and epistemic learning degeneration 31
List of abbreviations
Australian Labor Party
British Broadcasting Corporation
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee
International Business Machines corporation
International Monetary Fund
Independent Scientific Group
Institute of Science and Technology
Korea Advanced Institute of Science
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Major Projects Authority
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
New Democrat Party
National Farmers Union
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
research and development
Randomised Badger Culling Trial
randomised controlled trial
Southern Methodist University
Silicon Valley Model
Notes on contributors
Malcolm G. Bird is associate professor of political science at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is fascinated by the evolution of Canadian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the decision-making processes within Westminster Parliamentary systems. His research efforts focus on examining the modernisation of contemporary Canadian SOEs and how they have adapted their internal operations and governance regimes over the last thirty years. He marvels at the capacity of Canadian SOEs to balance diverse and often competing demands from numerous stakeholders as well as from their political masters. He holds a PhD in Public Policy and Administration from Carleton University.
Claire A. Dunlop is professor of politics at the University of Exeter, UK. A public policy and administration scholar, Claire’s main fields of interest include the politics of expertise and knowledge utilisation; epistemic communities and advisory politics; risk governance; policy learning and analysis; impact assessment; and policy narratives. Her recent co-edited volume (with Claudio M. Radaelli and Philipp Trein) is Learning in Public Policy: Analysis, Modes and Outcomes (Palgrave, 2018). Since 2014 she has been editor of Public Policy and Administration and in 2018 became a trustee of the UK Political Studies Association.
Sarah Giest is an assistant professor with the Institute of Public Administration at Leiden University, Netherlands. Sarah specialises in public policy analysis focusing on policy instruments and capacity in the innovation, technology and sustainability realm. This includes, for example, the use of big data for public climate change efforts or the capacity of government to innovate in urban settings. Her work has been published, among others, in Energy Policy, Environmental Science & Policy, Policy Sciences, and Public Administration. She is on the Editorial Board for Policy Design and Practice and member of the Young Academy Leiden.
Michael Howlett is Burnaby Mountain Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, Canada. He specialises in public policy analysis, political economy, and resource and environmental policy.
Adrian Kay is an Honorary Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University where he was previously Professor of Government. He is a past President of the Australian Political Studies Association and has also held Chairs in the UK and Asia. He was a member of the UK government’s European Fast Stream for several years and worked for the EU Commission in Brussels prior to a career in academia. His research lies at the intersection of international and comparative public policy, with a current focus on contributing to understanding the relationships between Islam and public policy making in different institutional contexts.
Sreeja Nair is a research fellow at the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore where her research focuses on bridging socio-cultural and political dimensions with technological aspects of water sustainability in Asia. Her research interests include policy design under uncertainty and impacts of environmental change on communities, focusing on water and agriculture sectors.
Joshua Newman is a senior lecturer in the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. His research interests involve the relationship between government and private sector organisations, including regulation, privatisation, and public-private partnerships. In addition, Joshua has written about research utilisation and evidence-based policy, policy outcomes and evaluation, and managing wicked policy problems. He is the author of Governing Public-Private Partnerships (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017).
Diane Stone is Dean of the School of Public Policy at the Central European University. In order to oversee the transition of the School from Budapest to its new home in Vienna, she has moved from her position in Australia as Centenary Professor in the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra. Previously, she was a Professor of Politics and International Studies at Warwick University (1996–2019), a Professor of Politics at the University of Western Australia (2010–13), and a European Commission Marie Curie Chair (2004–08) at Central European University. Additionally, she worked at the World Bank, in the Secretariat that launched the Global Development Network in 1999, then became a member of its Governing Body (2001–05). Currently, Professor Stone is Consulting Editor of Policy & Politics as well as Vice President of the International Public Policy Association. Her most recent publication is Global Policy and Transnational Administration (OUP, 2019).
The chapters for this volume arise from a policy failure and learning workshop hosted by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), National University of Singapore, 19–21 February 2014. All the authors wish to thank the workshop organisers – Michael Howlett, M Ramesh and Xun Wu – and all the other participants for their intellectual generosity and support. As editor, I want to extend my sincere thanks to all the anonymous referees whose comments inspired our authors and helped improve the chapters. The collection first appeared as an edited special issue of Policy & Politics (2017, volume 45, issue 1) and we thank the editorial team who made it such a rigorous and fun experience!