Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Ambiguity in Policy Lessons: The Agencification Experience

The policy transfer literature identifies the importance of context in shaping policy selection. However, countries with distinct contexts are pursuing the agencification of the public sector. Why? The solution to this puzzle lies in the ambiguity associated with public management ideas. This ambiguity allows policy adopters room to interpret management doctrines and experience. The result is that public management ideas that carry the same identifying label can mask variation in the understanding of the policy, the motivation for adoption, and in implementation outcomes. The process of interpretation allows policymakers in different contexts to a) adopt superficially similar policy concepts, b) overlook negative experiential learning that contradicts the policy doctrine, and c) adopt policies unsuitable to the national context.

Additional Info

  • Volume or issue no.: La Follette School Working Paper No. 2005-025 has been published in Public Administration 84(4): 1029-1050.
  • Author(s): Donald P. Moynihan