Networks, evidence and lesson-drawing in the public policy process : the case of Sarah Payne and the British debate about sex offender community notification
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This thesis examines the public policy process. It explores the role of and relation between three concepts considered important in defining and shaping the making of policies: policy networks, evidence-use and policy transfer. It does this through examining a high profile and controversial area of public policy: the debate about sex offender community notification that resulted from the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a convicted sex offender in the summer of 2000. A case study methodology is employed, which includes interviews with key players and extensive documentary analysis. The study finds that none of the main concepts for understanding policy networks - iron triangles, issue networks, policy communities and advocacy coalitions - provide sufficient characterisation of the policy network involved in the 2000 community notification debate. Areas that these concepts do not fully address include the degree of choice participants have in getting involved in a policy network, the causes and processes of alliance building between network participants and the importance, characteristics and impact of organisational as well as personal links. Practitioner knowledge emerges as a major influence in policy making with different forms of evidence entering the policy debate in a strategic way - that is to support an argument. Factors that explain the influence of research evidence are its comprehensiveness, its perceived value for future policy debates on the same topic and the assumed integrity of the evidence-provider. The existing concept of lesson-drawing is found to focus too much on cases in which policy transfer has taken place. It is necessary to develop the concept further to explain situations in which lessons are drawn but where the idea of transferring a policy is dismissed. Finally, lesson-drawing is not limited to the substance of policies and practices but also includes lessons about tactics and processes.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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