Stijn Brouwer defends PhD thesis on Policy Entrepreneurs and Strategies for Change



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Stijn Brouwer defends PhD thesis on Policy Entrepreneurs and Strategies for Change: The Case of Water Management in the Netherlands

Drs. Stijn Brouwer

Prof.dr. Frank Biermann

Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM)

Earth and Life Sciences

PhD conferral


The capability and understanding of how to affect policy is becoming increasingly important in view of global social and environmental challenges. Given the amorphous and complex nature of policy change, however, in many respects it remains a puzzle how such processes can be explained, let alone affected. The purpose of Brouwer´s study is to deepen our understanding of policymaking processes, elucidating the strategic modus operandi of so-called policy entrepreneurs; highly talented individual change agents who are constantly on the alert for policy opportunities.

Policy Entrepreneurs and Strategies for Change analyses policymaking processes at the micro-level. It explores the different strategies that policy entrepreneurs employ and which conditions affect the policy entrepreneur’s selection of strategies and, more importantly, it assesses the (contextual) effectiveness of these strategies. The empirical research is based on a four-year study, entailing more than 60 in-depth interviews, a focus group, and an extensive mail survey of over 450 water policy entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, a country that draws on enviable water management expertise. Theoretically the dissertation builds on insights from the policy science literature, the project management literature, the political science literature, and the emerging line of literature on network management.

The dissertation identified ten different entrepreneurial strategies, which can be grouped into four logical categories: (1) attention- and support-seeking strategies, (2) linking strategies, (3) relational management strategies, and (4) arena strategies. The thesis suggests that by an effective use of the various strategies, policy entrepreneurs are, to some degree, but much more than is suggested in most prevailing theories, capable of directing policy change, and for this reason can rightfully be considered as mindful and proactive orchestrators of policy change processes.

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