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How do cities approach policy innovation and policy learning? A study of 30 policies in Northern Europe and North America


Author Info

  • Marsden, G.
  • Frick, K.T.
  • May, A.D.
  • Deakin, E.
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    This paper reports on a study of current practice in policy transfer, and ways in which its effectiveness can be increased. A literature review identifies important factors in examining the transfer of policies. Results of interviews in eleven cities in Northern Europe and North America investigate these factors further. The principal motivations for policy transfer were strategic need and curiosity. Local officials and politicians dominated the process of initiating policy transfer, and local officials were also the leading players in transferring experience. A range of information sources are used in the search process but human interaction was the most important source of learning for two main reasons. First, there is too much information available through the Internet and the search techniques are not seen to be wholly effective in identifying the necessary information. Secondly, the information available on websites, portals and even good practice guides is not seen to be of mixed quality with risks of focussing only on successful implementation and therefore subject to some bias. Officials therefore rely on their trusted networks of peers for lessons as here they can access the 'real implementation' story and the unwritten lessons. Organisations which have a culture that is supportive of learning from elsewhere had strong and broad networks of external contacts and resourced their development whilst others are more insular or inward looking and reluctant to invest in policy lessons from elsewhere. Solutions to the problems identified in the evidence base are proposed. City to city policy transfer is a very active process in the field of transport. Not enough is yet understood about its benefits or the conditions under which it is most effective. Such understandings should help to promote and accelerate the uptake of effective and well matched policies.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Transport Policy.

    Volume (Year): 18 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (May)
    Pages: 501-512

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:18:y:2011:i:3:p:501-512

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    Keywords: Policy transfer Innovation Urban transport Policy learning Implementation;


    References listed on IDEAS
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    1. van den Bergh, J.C.J.M. & van Leeuwen, E.S. & Oosterhuis, F.H. & Rietveld, P. & Verhoef, E.T., 2007. "Social learning by doing in sustainable transport innovations: Ex-post analysis of common factors behind successes and failures," Research Policy, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 247-259, March.
    2. Isaksson, Karolina & Richardson, Tim, 2009. "Building legitimacy for risky policies: The cost of avoiding conflict in Stockholm," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 251-257, March.
    3. Marsden, Greg & Frick, Karen Trapenberg & May, Anthony D. & Deakin, Elizabeth A, 2009. "Good Practice in the Exploitation of Innovative Strategies in Sustainable Urban Transport: City Interview Synthesis," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt4cd3d9rs, University of California Transportation Center.
    4. Tom Rye & Martin Gaunt & Stephen Ison, 2008. "Edinburgh's Congestion Charging Plans: An Analysis of Reasons for Non-Implementation," Transportation Planning and Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(6), pages 641-661, March.
    5. Wang, Rui, 2010. "Shaping urban transport policies in China: Will copying foreign policies work?," Transport Policy, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 147-152, May.
    6. Kristine Kern & Harriet Bulkeley, 2009. "Cities, Europeanization and Multi-level Governance: Governing Climate Change through Transnational Municipal Networks," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47, pages 309-332, 03.
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    Cited by:
    1. Maria Lindholm, 2013. "Urban freight transport from a local authority perspective – a literature review," European Transport \ Trasporti Europei, ISTIEE, Institute for the Study of Transport within the European Economic Integration, ISTIEE, Institute for the Study of Transport within the European Economic Integration, issue 54, pages 3.
    2. Katie Johnson & Margaretha Breil, 2012. "Conceptualizing Urban Adaptation to Climate Change Findings from an Applied Adaptation Assessment Framework," Working Papers, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei 2012.29, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    3. Taedong Lee & Susan Meene, 2012. "Who teaches and who learns? Policy learning through the C40 cities climate network," Policy Sciences, Springer, Springer, vol. 45(3), pages 199-220, September.


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