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Ideas, bargaining and flexible policy communities: Policy change and the case of the Oxford transport strategy

Dudley, Geoffrey


Geoffrey Dudley


Critiques of policy networks have highlighted particularly the inability of concepts such as policy communities to explain policy change. The established construction of policy community places it chiefly as a metaphor for a relatively stable network within the policy process, which emphasizes the resource dependencies between key stakeholders. Typically, a process of bargaining brings accommodation and a state of negotiated order. However, a key problem arises in explaining major policy change where an established policy community persists. One solution here is to appreciate that, over time, dominant ideas and associated policy meaning may shift appreciably within an otherwise durable policy community. Thus, even a seemingly insulated policy community, under certain conditions, may not be immune to idea mutation and new policy meanings. Given the central importance of policy communities, these shifts may induce significant policy change. A case study of this type is provided by the Oxford Transport Strategy (OTS), where a dual process of change took place. On the level of analysis, a challenge to the policy community produced a typical strategy, with an emphasis on negotiated markedly, and produced a new meaning for the key concept of integrated transport within the policy community. In turn, this process induced significant policy change. The article concludes that, ironically, the survival of a policy community depends on its ability to re-create itself by visualizing a new future.


Dudley, G. (2003). Ideas, bargaining and flexible policy communities: Policy change and the case of the Oxford transport strategy. Public Administration, 81(3), 433-458.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2003
Journal Public Administration
Print ISSN 0033-3298
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 81
Issue 3
Pages 433-458
Keywords ideas, policy communities, policy change, Oxford transport policy
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This article is a further output from the Economic and Social Research Council project: �Discontinuities in Implementation: Building Systems of Integrated Transport in Britain' (R000223334), (see 2 above) for which the author was the principal investigator.

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