International Development Planning Review

Political transition, policy learning and failures to learn: a global South perspective

International Development Planning Review (2020), 42, (2), 165–189.

Abstract

This paper examines how political transition influences policy learning and change from a developing country perspective. Using the policy learning literature as an organising frame, the paper attempts to answer four related questions: Is political transition associated with any form of policy learning? If so, what is learnt? Who are the learners and in what instances do policy actors fail to learn? To answer these questions, the paper uses mixed methods comprising semi-structured interviews with policymakers and analyses of data from five medium-term policy documents in Ghana. Results from the study indeed suggest that governments learn from their predecessors and pursue incremental policy making practices. Findings also suggested that while state agencies learn from policy instruments over time, such efforts are often hampered by financial and human resource incapacities.

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References

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Deutsch, K. W. (1966) The nerves of government, New York, The Free Press. Google Scholar

Dolowitz, D. and Marsh, D. (1996) ‘Who learns from whom: a review of the policy transfer literature’, Political Studies, 44(2), 343–57. Google Scholar

Dunlop, C. A. and Radaelli, C. M. (2013) ‘Systematizing policy learning: from monolith to dimensions’, Political Studies, 31(3), 599–619. Google Scholar

Etheredge, L. M. and Short, J. (1983) ‘Thinking about government learning,’ Journal of Management Studies, 20(1), 41–58. Google Scholar

Etheredge, L. S. (1981) ‘Government learning: an overview’, in S. Long (ed.) The Hand-book of political behavior, Vol. 2. New York, Plenum Press, 73–161. Google Scholar

Evans, M. (2009) ‘Policy transfer in critical perspective’, Policy Studies, 30(3), 243–68. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (1991) Making People Matter: A Human Development Strategy for Ghana, National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

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Government of Ghana (2000) Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP). Ministry of Finance, Accra, https://www.imf.org/external/NP/prsp/2000/gha/01/063000.pdf (accessed 9 September 2019). Google Scholar

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Government of Ghana (2005) Growth and poverty reduction strategy (GPRS II 2006–2009), National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (2010a) Ghana shared growth and development agenda (2010–2013), Volume I: Policy framework, National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (2010b) Ghana shared growth and development agenda (2014–2017), Volume I: Policy framework, National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

Greenberg, D. H. and Robbins P. K. (1986) ‘The changing role of social experiments in policy analysis’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 5(2), 340–62. Google Scholar

Hall, P. (1993) ‘Policy paradigms, social learning and the state: the case of economic policymaking in Britain’, Comparative Politics, 25(3), 275–96. Google Scholar

Heclo, H. (1974) Modern social politics in Britain and Sweden, New Haven, CT, Yale University. Google Scholar

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Hood, C. (2010) The blame game: spin, bureaucracy, and self-preservation in government, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press. Google Scholar

Howlett, M. (2012) ‘The lessons of failure: learning and blame avoidance in public policymaking’, International Political Science Review, 33(5), 539–55. Google Scholar

Jenkins-Smith, H. C., Nohrstedt, D., Weible, C. M. and Sabatier, P. A. (2014) ‘The advocacy coalition framework: foundations, evolution, and ongoing research’, Theories of the Policy Process, 3, 183–224. Google Scholar

Jordana, J. and Levi-Faur, D. (2005) ‘The diffusion of regulatory capitalism in Latin America’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598(1), 102–24. Google Scholar

Kay, A. (2017) ‘Policy failures, policy learning and institutional change: the case of Australian health insurance policy change’, Policy & Politics, 45(1), 87–101. Google Scholar

Levy, J. (1994) ‘Learning and foreign policy: sweeping a conceptual minefield’, International Organisation, 48(2), 279–312. Google Scholar

Lindblom, C. E. (1959) ‘The science of “muddling through”’, Public Administration Review, 19(2), 79–88. Google Scholar

Majone, G. and Wildavsky A. (1979) ‘Implementation as evolution’, in J. Pressman and A. Wildavsky (eds) Implementation, 3rd edition, Berkeley, University of California Press, 163–80. Google Scholar

May, P. J. (1986) ‘Politics and policy analysis’, Political Science Quarterly, 101(1), 109–25. Google Scholar

May, P. J. (1992) ‘Policy learning and failure’, Journal of Public Policy, 12(4), 331–54. Google Scholar

McConnell, A. (2010) ‘Policy success, policy failure and grey areas in-between’, Journal of Public Policy, 30(3), 345–62. Google Scholar

Meseguer, C. (2004) ‘What role for learning? The diffusion of privatisation in OECD and Latin American countries’, Journal of Public Policy, 24(3), 299–325. Google Scholar

Mitchell, T. (1991) ‘The limits of the state: beyond statist approaches and their critics’, American Political Science Review, 85(1), 79–96. Google Scholar

NDC (National Democratic Congress) (2008) 2008 Manifesto, Accra, National Democratic Congress. Google Scholar

NDPC (National Development Planning Commission) (2015) ‘Planning for a nation’s economic and social development: the journey from Guggisberg economy to the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA)’, Government of Ghana, http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/media-center/features/1323-planning-for-a-nation-s-economic-and-social-development-the-journey-from-guggisber%E2%80%A6 (accessed 20 July 2018). Google Scholar

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Newman, J. and Bird, M.G. (2017) ‘British Columbia’s fast ferries and Sydney’s airport link: partisan barriers to learning from policy failure’, Policy & Politics, 45(1), 71–85. Google Scholar

Nordlinger, E. (1981) On the autonomy of the democratic state, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. Google Scholar

NPP (New Patriotic Party) (2000) 2000 Manifesto, Accra, New Patriotic Party. Google Scholar

O’Donovan, K. (2017) ‘Policy failure and policy learning: examining the conditions of learning after disaster’, Review of Policy Research, 34(4), 537–58. Google Scholar

OECD (n.d.) Policy Learning. Innovation Policy Platform, OECD, https://www.innovation-policyplatform.com/printpdf/12522 (accessed 27 March 2019). Google Scholar

Pollitt, C. (2006) ‘Performance management in practice: a comparative study of executive agencies’, Journal of Public Administration, Research and Theory, 16(1), 25–44. Google Scholar

Pollitt, C. (2008) Time, policy, management: governing with the past, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Google Scholar

Polsby, N. W. (1984) Political innovation in America: the politics of policy initiation, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press. Google Scholar

Preece, J. (2013) ‘Africa and international policy making for lifelong learning: textual revelations’, International Journal of Educational Development, 33(1), 98–105. Google Scholar

Rose, R. (1991) ‘What is lesson-drawing?’, Journal of Public Policy, 11(1), 3–30. Google Scholar

Sabatier, P. A (1987) ‘Knowledge, policy-oriented learning, and policy change’, Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilization, 8(4), 649–92. Google Scholar

Sabatier, P. A. (1988) An advocacy coalition framework of policy change and the role of policy-oriented learning therein’, Policy Sciences, 21(2–3), 129–68. Google Scholar

Sabatier, P. A. and Jenkins-Smith, H. (1993) Policy change and learning: an advocacy coalition approach, Boulder, CO, Westview. Google Scholar

Sabatier, P. A. and Weible, C. M. (2014) Theories of the policy process, 3rd ed., Boulder, CO, Westview Press. Google Scholar

Sabel, C. F. and Zeitlin, J. (2008) ‘Learning from difference: the new architecture of experimentalist governance in the European Union’, European Law Journal, 14(3), 271–327. Google Scholar

Sabel, C. F. and Zeitlin, J. (2012) Experimental governance in the European Union: towards a new architecture?, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Google Scholar

Schneider, A. and Ingram, H. (1988) ‘Systematically pinching ideas: a comparative approach to policy design’, Journal of Public Policy, 8(1), 61–80. Google Scholar

Schneider, A. and Ingram, H. (1992) ‘The social construction of target populations: implications for politics and policy’, Tempe, AZ, College of Public Programs, Arizona State University. Google Scholar

Shanahan, E. A., Jones, M. D., McBeth, M. K. and Radaelli, C. M. (2018) ‘The narrative policy framework’, in Weible, C. M. and Sabatier, P. A. (eds) Theories of the policy process, 4th ed., Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 173–213. Google Scholar

Simmons, B. A. and Elkins, Z. (2004) ‘The globalization of liberalization: policy diffusion in the international political economy’, American Political Science Review, 98(1), 171–89. Google Scholar

Stone, D. A. (1989) ‘Causal stories and the formation of policy agendas’, Political Science Quarterly, I 04(2), 281–300. Google Scholar

Way, C. R. (2005) ‘Political insecurity and the diffusion of financial market regulation’, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598(1), 125–44. Google Scholar

Wildavsky, A. (1979) ‘Strategic retreat on objectives: learning from failure in American Public policy’, in A. Wildavsky, Speaking truth to power, Boston, MA, Little, Brown, 385–406. Google Scholar

Wood, A. (2015) ‘The politics of policy circulation: unpacking the relationship between South African and South American cities in the adoption of bus rapid transit’, Antipode, 47(4), 1062–79. Google Scholar

Zahariadis, N. (2013) ‘Building better theoretical frameworks of the EU’s policy process’, Journal of European Public Policy, 20(6), 807–16. Google Scholar

Zeitlin, J. (ed.) (2015) Extending experimentalist governance? The European Union and transnational regulation, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Google Scholar

Zittoun, P. (2014) The political process of policymaking: a pragmatic approach to public policy, New York, Palgrave McMillan. Google Scholar

Argyris, C. and Schön, D. (1978) Organizational learning: a theory of action perspective, Addison-Wesley, Reading. Google Scholar

Ayee, J. R. A (2011) ‘Manifestos and elections in Ghana’s Fourth Republic’, South African Journal of International Affairs, 18(3), 367–84. Google Scholar

Bennett, C. J. and Howlett, M. (1992) ‘The lessons of learning: reconciling theories of policy learning and policy change’, Policy Sciences, 25(3), 275–94. Google Scholar

Beverwijk, J. (2005) ‘The genesis of a system: coalition formation in Mozambique higher education, 1993–2003’ (PhD thesis), Enschede, University of Twente. Google Scholar

Campbell, D. T. (1969) ‘Reforms as experiments’, American Psychologist, 24(4), 409–29. Google Scholar

Carvalho, G. O. (2001) ‘Metallurgical development in the Carajas area: a case study of the evolution of environmental policy formation in Brazil’, Society and Natural Resources, 14(2), 127–43. Google Scholar

Casey, B. H. and McKinnon, R. (2009) ‘Social pensions and policy learning: the case of southern Africa’, International Social Security Review, 62(4), 81–102. Google Scholar

Chumo, E. (2018) ‘What can African governments do to improve policy implementation?’, 24 July, AFIDEP, https://www.afidep.org/using-evidence-to-improve-policy-implementation-ample-lessons-in-first-day-of-nairobi-workshop/ (accessed 24 July 2018). Google Scholar

CitiFMonline (2018) ‘Ghana’s 40-year development plan to be reviewed’, 16 March, CitiF-Monline, https://www.modernghana.com/news/841760/ghanas-40-year-development-plan-to-be-reviewed.html (accessed 24 July 2018). Google Scholar

Daniels, S. E. and Walker, G. B. (1996) ‘Collaborative learning: improving public deliberation in ecosystem-based management’, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 16(2), 71–102. Google Scholar

Deutsch, K. W. (1966) The nerves of government, New York, The Free Press. Google Scholar

Dolowitz, D. and Marsh, D. (1996) ‘Who learns from whom: a review of the policy transfer literature’, Political Studies, 44(2), 343–57. Google Scholar

Dunlop, C. A. and Radaelli, C. M. (2013) ‘Systematizing policy learning: from monolith to dimensions’, Political Studies, 31(3), 599–619. Google Scholar

Etheredge, L. M. and Short, J. (1983) ‘Thinking about government learning,’ Journal of Management Studies, 20(1), 41–58. Google Scholar

Etheredge, L. S. (1981) ‘Government learning: an overview’, in S. Long (ed.) The Hand-book of political behavior, Vol. 2. New York, Plenum Press, 73–161. Google Scholar

Evans, M. (2009) ‘Policy transfer in critical perspective’, Policy Studies, 30(3), 243–68. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (1991) Making People Matter: A Human Development Strategy for Ghana, National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (1992) The constitution of the Republic of Ghana, http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/gha129754.pdf (accessed 9 September 2019). Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (1998) Ghana vision 2020 the first term development plan programme of action, Accra, Accra Government of Ghana, World Press Limited. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (2000) Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP). Ministry of Finance, Accra, https://www.imf.org/external/NP/prsp/2000/gha/01/063000.pdf (accessed 9 September 2019). Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (2003) Ghana poverty reduction strategy (2003–2005): an agenda for growth and prosperity vol. 1: analysis and policy statement, Accra, National Development Planning Commission. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (2005) Growth and poverty reduction strategy (GPRS II 2006–2009), National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (2010a) Ghana shared growth and development agenda (2010–2013), Volume I: Policy framework, National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

Government of Ghana (2010b) Ghana shared growth and development agenda (2014–2017), Volume I: Policy framework, National Development Planning Commission, Accra. Google Scholar

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Kaye-Essien, Charles Wharton