All politics and policy issues involve the accumulation of data about problems and solutions in context of social interactions. Drawing on these data, policy actors acquire, translate, and disseminate new information and knowledge toward achieving political endeavors and for revising or strengthening their policy-related beliefs over time. ‘Policy learning’ is a concept that refers to this cognitive and social dynamic. Articles in this special issue examine the relationship between policy learning and policy change from different theoretical perspectives. In this introduction to the special issue, we describe the current approaches that structure the field and gaps in knowledge separating policy learning and policy change. We introduce a refined conceptual framework to outline and compare the articles in the issue. These articles point to several facets of the learning phenomenon. First, the articles focus on the nature and consequences of learning by specific groups of society, such as advocacy coalitions, epistemic communities, citizens, street-level bureaucrats, and policy brokers. Second, they present learning processes in which information and experience are used to acquire new knowledge on policy objectives to substantiate and legitimize them or to change or form beliefs. Third, they identify several cognitive and social processes to strengthen the connection between policy learning and policy change. Finally, the articles point to several psychological, social, and institutional factors fostering or impeding these cognitive and social processes. This introduction concludes with avenues for future research.

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Policy and Society
Department of Public Administration

Moyson, S., Scholten, P., & Weible, C.M. (Christopher M.). (2017). Policy learning and policy change: Theorizing their relations from different perspectives. Policy and Society, 36(2), 161–177. doi:10.1080/14494035.2017.1331879