The innovation and transition studies literatures assign the government with an important role in helping direct and facilitate transitions to help overcome societal problems. However, the policy recommendations that transition studies provide to the government do not land amongst policy makers as well as they should, for two reasons that are at the heart of this project. First, transition studies tend to look at the government as a single actor, instead of acknowledging the diversity in and between ministries. Second, ministries legitimize their action through public policy theories that are conceptually at odds with innovation and transition perspectives. In order to help land these policy recommendations for transitions, this project sets out to make a bridge between transition studies and public policy.
Many different notions of innovation, transition and missions are constructed in the Dutch ministries. These concepts are still unclear for practitioners and in their translation into praxis have developed different meanings than transition studies intended. Between and within ministries there are different common understandings why innovation and transition are needed. As governments are using more and more the transformative and mission-oriented policy discourse, it is important that ministries develop a legitimate basis on which to base the transformative interventions envisioned by the transitions literature.
Weber and Rohracher (2012) explained the legitimization from a transition studies perspective; where legitimacy to act as a government can be achieved when markets are failing, the authors expand this view with system failure and transformation failure. Although these are very useful concepts for innovation-minded individuals within ministries, for the failures to truly resonate with civil servants, they need to be better embedded within the notions of legitimacy provided by the public policy and public administration (PPA) literature that dominates the policy paradigm.
PPA describes how government can and must function. Within PPA literature there are four main traditions, who all still have their function in the daily praxis at the ministry. But there is meager description within these traditions how to work on innovation and transition, let alone a precept what role ‘the government’ must play in it. For instance, for Classical Bureaucracy theory, civil servants get legitimacy through following procedures, which has a conservative quality but can be in the novel processes of innovation. There is a whole repertoire of kinds of legitimacy from different PPA traditions (Stout, 2013) which civil servants can call upon when drafting policy. These legitimacy arguments are not all beneficial for innovation and transition. If transformative notions are not met in the ministries with the right notions of legitimacy for them to act, then there will be no transformative policy.
The research questions are:
- What is the discrepancy between the role ‘the government’ must take as precepted by the transformative approaches, and the role the ‘government’ is legitimized to take by the different PPA traditions on innovation and transition?
- What lessons can we draw from the PPA literature to help legitimize the policies recommended by the transformative approaches?
Weber, K.M., Rohracher, H. (2012). Legitimizing research, technology and innovation policies for transformative change: Combining insights from innovation systems and multi-level perspective in a comprehensive “failures” framework. Res. Policy 41, 1037–1047.
Stout, M. (2013). Logics of Legitimacy: Three Traditions of Public Administration Praxis. Boca Raton: CRC Press