Policy entrepreneurs transform policy ideas into policy innovations, disrupting the status quo of existing settings. What makes for effective policy entrepreneurship and what attributes, skills and strategies do you need?
In a paper for Policy Design and Practice, Michael Mintrom (Monash University) examines the research on policy entrepreneurship, providing insights for those who want to be policy entrepreneurs.
The work of policy entrepreneurs involves the following strategies:
This works call for a range of attributes and skills including ambition, credibility, strategic thinking, collecting evidence, engaging multiple audiences and negotiating.
Policy entrepreneurs can be inside or outside of government, in elected or appointed positions, in interest groups or research organisations. Like business entrepreneurs, their defining characteristic is their willingness to invest their resources – time, energy, reputation, and sometimes money – in the hope of a future return.
Possessing specific attributes and skills, policy entrepreneurs deploy a range of strategies. The relationship between these strategies, attributes and skills is depicted in figure below:
Attributes are best thought of as inherent capabilities. Ambition, social acuity, credibility, sociability, and tenacity are attributes that are essential prerequisites for being an effective policy entrepreneur.
Skills differ from attributes in that they can be learned. Critical skills for a policy entrepreneur include strategic thinking, team building, collecting evidence, making arguments, engaging multiple audiences, negotiating and networking.
All policy entrepreneurs deploy the strategies outlined below to a greater or lesser extent. Some rely more heavily on specific strategies rather than others. This reflects the nature of the political contexts they are operating in and their own capabilities.
Policy entrepreneurship is tough work. It often takes courage. By definition, the pursuit of change is highly disruptive. Those who wish to drive policy innovation through entrepreneurship need to understand the attributes and skills required of policy entrepreneurs and the common strategies they employ.
So you want to be a policy entrepreneur? – Michael Mintrom (2019), Policy Design and Practice, published online: 14 October 2019
This brief is part of a Research Series written by Maria Katsonis. This research brief originally appeared in The Mandarin as part of The Mandarin and ANZSOG's 2019 Research Series called The Drop.
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