Experts as policy entrepreneurs: How knowledge can lead to radical environmental change

Valin, Nina; Huitema, Dave


In the context of global environmental change, radical policy change is often called for. Experts are frequently involved and can act as policy entrepreneurs to make such change happen. This paper presents an analysis of a historical case where radical policy change took place at large scale, namely the development of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). In this endeavor, experts were deeply embedded in the designing of radical new policies. First, we demonstrate for the first time how experts can act as policy entrepreneurs alongside the EU Commission, and insist on the importance of not neglecting the agency of experts in EU radical policy change. Second, we elaborate on the complexity of the interactions between the policy and politics streams of Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Framework. In his framework, Kingdon describes the policy process as three parallel streams (a problem, a policy and politics) where policy entrepreneurs are the ones ‘’making the coupling of the streams’’ (Kingdon, 1984, p188). However, we argue that there is more to understand from the actual processes that make the streams entangled and allow for policy change to become a reality. We propose the concept of transcoding from the STS literature to illustrate the action of policy entrepreneurs in bridging the policy and politics streams. With this concept, we intend to show the processes that translate scientifically endorsed approaches and understandings into policy decisions, and to open new research possibilities in complement to the Multiple Stream Framework.