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Designing policy for the long term: Agency, policy feedback and policy change

Sewerin, Sebastian, Daniel Béland, Benjamin Cashore. 2020. Designing policy for the long term: Agency, policy feedback and policy change. Policy Sciences, 53:243–252


Policy feedback research faces a potential pivot point owing to recent theoretical and substantive advances. Concerted attention now spans new scientific communities, such as climate focused socio-technical transitions literature, as well as reinvigorated attention to environmental politics or policy. Rather than being interested in abstractly explaining policy stability and change, this latest turn turns feedback theory in order to help find practical answers to long-term policy challenges. This introduction to our special issue of Policy Sciences aims to take stock of recent developments in policy feedback research and highlight some areas that could be addressed to move the field forward. We argue for taking seriously the original dictum of policy feedback as a loop in which policy is treated as both the start and end point of analysis. This requires integrating advances in policy design scholarship through shared conceptualizations of ‘policy,’ ‘actors’ and ‘agency’. Doing so, we posit, will champion more comprehensive understandings of the effectiveness of policy design choices in general, and long-term oriented policy change in particular.

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