Global Policy Advisory Systems – Patterns, Trajectories and Impacts

A recently awarded SSHRC research project

This page describes a research project funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), led by Atlas co-editor Leslie A. Pal. The project, entitled Global Policy Advisory Systems – Patterns, Trajectories and Impacts, builds in some respects on an earlier SSHRC-funded project described at Best Practices in Public Management.

The description of the project (from Leslie Pal’s submission) follows.

“Rulers need advice, and all complex states have developed advisory systems of one sort or another (Goldhamer, 1978). The ancient tradition was one of “mirrors for princes” (Born, 1928; Boroujerdi, 2013; Erasmus, 1997; Machiavelli, 1985), but the modern state has had to go “beyond Machiavelli” (Radin, 2013) in designing its advisory systems. These “interlocked set of actors” providing advice (Craft, 2016: 12) reflected the postwar development of the “policy sciences” (Brewer, 1974; deLeon, 1988, 2006; Mintrom & Williams, 2013). This development assumed that advisory systems “speak truth to power” (Wildavsky, 1979), and that if well-designed (Painter & Pierre, 2005), they will enhance policy capacity and ultimately produce better social outcomes (Howlett, 2013).

“Remarkably, another key assumption has been that policy advisory systems are almost entirely domestic – internal to government, they consist of cabinet and ministerial offices, and some special purpose agencies; external to government, they consist of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), think tanks, lobbyists, etc. Early work on advisory systems occasionally acknowledged transnational pathways, but as an afterthought (Halligan, 1995: 156-58; Weaver & Stares, 2001: 27). Contemporary research largely overlooks them. However, policy ideas and models are increasingly generated at the global level in international governmental organizations (IGOs) such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or United Nations (UN) Commissions, becoming a resource for domestic policy makers through policy transfer and diffusion (Benson & Jordan, 2011; De Francesco, 2013; Dolowitz & Marsh, 1996, 2000; Peck & Theodore, 2015). Almost every domestic policy field is wired into international law, resolutions, conventions, or agreements, and so domestic policy advice is almost always coloured by that global connection.

“The issue has been addressed from other directions. One has been the study of transnational policy actors, including both IGOs as well as the wider range of international NGOs, advocacy organizations, foundations, think tanks, and consultants (Coleman, 2012; Djelic & Sahlin-Andersson, 2006; Haas, 1992; Stone, 2002, 2004, 2013). Another has been the work of international relations scholars who have highlighted the autonomous capacity and policy impact of IGOs (Barnett & Finnemore, 2004; Busch, 2014; Kaasch & Martens, 2015; Mathiason, 2007). However, most of this work consists of case studies of single organizations or actors, missing the emergence of systems or networks of on-going activity. There are exceptions: Slaughter’s early work on governance networks (Slaughter, 2004), Keck and Sikkink on advocacy networks (Keck & Sikkink, 1998), the EU as a policy transfer theatre (Börzel & Risse, 2012; Cowles, Caporaso, & Risse, 2001; Delcour, 2011; Leuffen, Rittberger, & Schimmelfennig, 2013), the newly emerging work on transnational public administration (Stone & Ladi, 2015), and regime complexes and IGOs as “orchestrators” (Abbott, Genschel, Snidal, & Zangl, 2015; Keohane & Victor, 2011). However, none of this work has specifically isolated the existence and dynamics of global policy advisory systems (GPAS) as such, or their connection and impact to domestic advisory systems. This research will do precisely that through: (1) the development of a comprehensive analytical database, (2) detailed case studies, and (3) analysis of GPAS linkages to domestic policy processes. It promises to change the way we think about policy advice, and possibly illuminate new skills and tools needed by policy makers. It will also help re-conceptualize public administration as a set of practices that are increasingly integrated across global and domestic levels.

Submission references

Abbott, K. W., Genschel, P., Snidal, D., & Zangl, B. (Eds.). (2015). International Organizations as Orchestrators. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Barnett, M. N., & Finnemore, M. (2004). Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Benson, D., & Jordan, A. (2011). What have we learned from policy transfer research? Dolowitz and Marsh revisited. Political Studies Review, 9(3), 366-378.

Born, L. K. (1928). The perfect prince: A study in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century ideals. Speculum, 3(4), 470-504.

Boroujerdi, M. (Ed.) (2013). Mirror for the Muslim Prince: Islam and the Theory of Statecraft. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Börzel, T. A., & Risse, T. (2012). Western Europeanisation meets diffusion: Exploring new territory. West European Politics, 35(1), 192-207.

Brewer, G. D. (1974). The policy sciences emerge: To nurture and structure a discipline. Policy Sciences, 5(3), 239-244.

Busch, P.-O. (2014). The independent influence of international public administrations: Contours and future directions of an emerging research agenda. In S. Kim, S. Ashley, & W. H. Lambright (Eds.), Public Administration in the Context of Global Governance (pp. 45-62). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Coleman, W. D. (2012). Governance and global public policy. In D. Levi-Faur (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Governance (pp. 673-685). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cowles, M. G., Caporaso, J., & Risse, T. (Eds.). (2001). Transforming Europe: Europeanisation and Domestic Change. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Craft, J. (2016). Backrooms and Beyond: Partisan Advisors and the Politics of Policy Work in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

De Francesco, F. (2013). Transnational Policy Innovation: The OECD and the Diffusion of Regulatory Impact Analysis. Colchester, UK: ECPR Press.

Delcour, L. (2011). Shaping the Post-Soviet-Space? EU Policies and Approaches to Region-Building. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

deLeon, P. (1988). Advice and Consent: The Development of the Policy Sciences. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

deLeon, P. (2006). The historical roots of the field. In M. Moran, M. Rein, & R. E. Goodin (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy (pp. 39-57). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Djelic, M.-L., & Sahlin-Andersson, K. (Eds.). (2006). Transnational Governance: Institutional Dynamics of Regulation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dolowitz, D., & Marsh, D. (1996). Who learns what from whom: A review of the policy transfer literature. Political Studies, 44(2), 343-357.

Dolowitz, D., & Marsh, D. (2000). Learning from abroad: the role of policy transfer in contemporary policy-making. Governance, 13(1), 5-24.

Erasmus. (1997). The Education of a Christian Prince (N. M. Cheshire & M. J. Heath, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goldhamer, H. (1978). The Advisor. New York: Elsevier.

Haas, P. M. (1992). Introduction: Epistemic communities and international policy coordination. International Organization, 46(1), 1-35.

Halligan, J. (1995). Policy advice and the public service. In B. G. Peters & D. J. Savoie (Eds.), Governance in a Changing Environment. Montreal and Kingston: Canadian Centre for Management Development and McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Howlett, M. (2013). Conclusion – policy analytic capacity and evidence-based policy-making: Lessons from Canada Canadian Public Policy: Selected Studies in Process and Style (pp. 153-169). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Kaasch, A., & Martens, K. (Eds.). (2015). Actors and Agency in Global Social Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Keck, M. E., & Sikkink, K. (1998). Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Keohane, R. O., & Victor, D. G. (2011). The regime complex for climate change. Perspectives on Politics, 9(1), 7-23. doi:10.1017/S1537592710004068

Leuffen, D., Rittberger, B., & Schimmelfennig, F. (2013). Differentiated Integration: Explaining Variation in the European Union. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Machiavelli, N. (1985). The Prince: A New Translation with an Introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mathiason, J. (2007). Invisible Governance: International Secretariats in Global Politics. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.

Mintrom, M., & Williams, C. (2013). Public policy debate and the rise of policy analysis. In E. Araral, S. Fritzen, M. Howlett, M. Ramesh, & X. Wu (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Public Policy (pp. 3-16). New York: Routledge.

Painter, M., & Pierre, J. (2005). Unpacking state capacity: Issues and themes. In M. Painter & J. Pierre (Eds.), Challenges to State Policy Capacity: Global Trends and Comparative Perspectives (pp. 1-18). Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peck, J., & Theodore, N. (2015). Fast Policy: Experimental Statecraft at the Thresholds of Neoliberalism. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press.

Radin, B. A. (2013). Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Reaches Midlife (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Slaughter, A.-M. (2004). A New World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Stone, D. (2002). Knowledge networks and policy expertise in the global polity. In M. Ougaard & R. Higgott (Eds.), Towards a Global Polity (pp. 125-144). London: Routledge.

Stone, D. (2004). Transfer agents and global networks in the “transnationalization” of policy. Journal of European Public Policy, 11(3), 545-566.

Stone, D. (2013). Knowledge Actors and Transnational Governance: The Private-Public Nexus in the Global Agora. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Stone, D., & Ladi, S. (2015). Global public policy and transnational administration. Public Administration, 93(4), 839-855. doi:10.1111/padm.12207

Weaver, R. K., & Stares, P. B. (2001). Guidance for governance: An overview. In R. K. Weaver & P. B. Stares (Eds.), Guidance for Governance: Comparing Alternative Sources of Public Policy Advice (pp. 1-30). Tokyo: Japan Center for International Exchange.

Wildavsky, A. B. (1979). Speaking Truth to Power: The Art and Craft of Policy Analysis. Boston: Little, Brown.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last updated 3 June 2017.

Image: Global Advice, LLC, at, accessed 3 June 2017.