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When do disasters spark transformative policy change and why?

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  • 1 Uppsala University, , Sweden
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Floods, earthquakes, droughts, and other recurrent disasters around the globe have sparked renewed interest in whether and how disasters can be leveraged as turning points for transformation toward more sustainable and resilient societies. As the transformative potential of disasters increasingly gains prominence in different research fields, it is important to describe how different scientific approaches view the relationship. This article synthesises key insights from the policy sciences and public administration scholarship regarding the link between disruptive disaster events and policy activity aiming towards societal transformation. Key explanatory perspectives are discussed, including dynamics associated with institutional crisis, policy subsystems, agenda-setting and issue salience, governance capacity, policy-oriented learning and concentration of power, and situated in relation to four scenarios of potential disaster impacts on policymaking aiming at transformation. The results of this synthesis seek to enhance our understanding of when disasters may spark transformative change. Based on these findings, the article identifies priorities for future research into policymaking in the wake of disaster.

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  • 1 Uppsala University, , Sweden

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