The lessons of policy learning: types, triggers, hindrances and pathologies
Policy and Politics
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Policy learning is an attractive proposition, but who learns and for what purposes? Can we learn the wrong lesson? And why do so many attempts to learn what works often fail? In this article, we provide three lessons. First, there are four different modes in which constellations of actors learn. Hence our propositions about learning are conditional on which of the four contexts we refer to. Second, policy learning does not just happen; there are specific hindrances and triggers. Thus, learning can be facilitated by knowing the mechanisms to activate and the likely obstacles. Third, learning itself is a conditional final aim: although the official aspiration of public organizations and politicians is to improve on public policy, policy learning can also be dysfunctional – for an organization, a policy, a constellation of actors or even democracy.
The conceptual work was informed by two European Research Council (ERC) projects: Analysis of Learning in Regulatory Governance (ALREG) (grant # 230267) and Procedural Tools for Effective Governance (PROTEGO) (grant # 694632).
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