A Strategy for International Competitiveness and Social Cohesion
Edited by Maria João Rodrigues
Chapter 6: International benchmarking as a policy learning tool
Bengt-Åke Lundvall and Mark Tomlinson 1. INTRODUCTION The purpose of this chapter is to help build the foundation of processes of policy learning related to the Portuguese Presidency initiative on ‘Economic growth and social cohesion – a Europe based on knowledge and innovation’. More speciﬁcally the aim is to give a critical assessment of the standard uses of benchmarking and to suggest a new kind of benchmarking process that overcomes some of the traditional weaknesses as a method of international policy learning. New policy ‘architectures’ are required for the European Union in the face of rapid developments in new technologies and the increasing complexity that these bring. In a world of rapid change, learning processes have to become more ﬂexible and variated in order to cope with new features of socioeconomic life. We argue that naïve and mechanical applications of benchmarking procedures are highly problematic, because they undermine democracy and give rise to biased processes of institutional reform. But we also argue that the basic idea behind benchmarking – to stimulate processes of ‘learning by comparing’ – is sound and can be seen as a useful policy learning tool in the new environment. We start out by analysing the origin of the concept ‘benchmarking’ in the private sector, but the main focus is on benchmarking involving international comparisons of institutions, economic indicators and policies related to competence building and innovation. We will refer to examples of what we will call ‘naïve’ benchmarking which are built upon simplistic ideas about...
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