Policy Networks

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below, p. 260) defines a policy network as “the patterns of relations among members of the policy community.” [See Policy Community]

Pal defines global public policy networks as “quasi-official constellations of state actors, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations that do more than advocate, but develop and sometimes even implement policies and assist in global coordination.”

Pal writes (p. 246-247):

“… governments are increasingly attracted to the ideas of partnerships and framework policies (setting parameters, providing funding, but letting others deliver programs). Partly this is due to resource constraints, and shifting responsibilities onto third parties is a way of offloading expenses. However, the still enduring view of the limitations of governments, and the virtues of setting frameworks within which private actors can pursue their interests, places greater emphasis on partnerships, places greater emphasis on partnerships between the public and private/nonprofit sector. Policy communities and networks are important today not only because they represent interests that have to be integrated into the policy process, or information that is crucial to analysis, or even important loci of opposition, but because they are important sinews for implementation and delivery. …

“Information technologies make possible even wider, global connections of interests and communities, and better organized opposition to government policy. Some movements such as human rights, the environment, and women’s issues are truly global in scope. At the same time, some policy issues get driven further down, and so some networks that would have had their centre of gravity at the national level now become truly local or regional.

“We can conclude then that contemporary importance of policy networks and communities has not diminished; indeed, it has grown. However, the realities of the policy process continue to change the nature and dynamic of those communities, posing substantial challenges for policymakers.

“… Assuming that policy communities and networks are crucial components in the development and implementation of public policy, a core responsibility for any public manager is the improvement of learning and adaptive capacities, leading to higher levels of policy debate and relevant policy expertise. What this entails in practice depends on the type of policy community or network in question and its specific needs. Capacity-building for intellectual communities may mean enhancing informational resources and communication abilities. For communities involved in policy delivery, it may mean development of organizational capacity through training.”

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Implementing through Partners and Networks (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 7 April 2017.

Image: BAU Global Network, at http://www.baurome.com/global-network/, accessed 6 April 2017.