Learning from Abroad: The Role of Policy Transfer in Contemporary Policy-Making



In recent years there has been a growing body of literature within political science and international studies that directly and indirectly uses, discusses and analyzes the processes involved in lesson-drawing, policy convergence, policy diffusion and policy transfer. While the terminology and focus often vary, all of these studies are concerned with a similar process in which knowledge about policies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas in one political setting (past or present) is used in the development of policies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas in another political setting.

Given that this is a growing phenomenon, it is something that anyone studying public policy needs to consider. As such, this article is divided into four major sections. The first section briefly considers the extent of, and reasons for, the growth of policy transfer. The second section then outlines a framework for the analysis of transfer. From here a third section presents a continuum for distinguishing between different types of policy transfer. Finally, the last section addresses the relationship between policy transfer and policy “failure.”