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'Learning Lessons, Policy Transfer and the International Diffusion of Policy Ideas.'

Diane Stone

CSGR Working Paper No. 69/01

April 2001


The literature on policy transfer, diffusion and convergence as well as lesson drawing is burgeoning. The common theme among studies in this field is the concern with ‘knowledge about how policies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas in one political setting (past or present) is used in the development of policies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas in another political setting’ (Dolowitz & Marsh, 2000: 5 my emphasis). With the specific focus on knowledge actors, this paper highlights the roles played by non-state actors who act as ‘policy entrepreneurs’ and interact with officials in government and international organisation in the international spread of ideas and information. Second, it suggests that transfer is a process that is often facilitated within networks. Third, incorporating concepts about social learning helps account for when transfer is effective or not. Finally, the discussion advocates a more global focus – rather than the focus on transfer within or between OECD countries – to draw greater attention to the coercive character of transfer.

Keywords: policy transfer, lesson-drawing, convergence, diffusion of ideas, knowledge institutions/actors, policy networks and social learning

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