Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing
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Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing

Edited by H. K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe

This Handbook covers the accounts, by practitioners and observers, of the ways in which policy is formed around problems, how these problems are recognized and understood, and how diverse participants come to be involved in addressing them. H.K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe draw together a range of original contributions from experts in the field to illuminate the ways in which policies are formed and how they shape the process of governing.
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Chapter 19: Policy learning and diffusion

David P. Dolowitz

Abstract

Compelling stories are essential to policies, and as policies face challenges the stories change. This chapter discusses three distinct but intertwined themes: (i) policy as meta-narrative, (ii) policy as narration, and (iii) policy as narrative-networks. First, policymakers (and other actors) construct general stories that serve to capture and convey a policy initiative in a coherent, repeatable plot. But much of policy also emerges from the interpretive actions of street-level and other actors who actively narrate a policy into existence (possibly changing the script in the process). And, lastly, policy also takes the form of active communities, which we refer to as narrative-networks, which coalesce around a policy initiative and further its realization. These communities can challenge dominant policy narratives. We illustrate these ideas with the example of drug enforcement in the U.S., using contrasting narratives from the Reagan and Obama eras to dramatize the importance of narratives in the policy process.

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