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Are Policy Entrepreneurs Really Decisive in Achieving Policy Change? Drought Policy in the USA and Australia


  • Linda Courtenay Botterill

    1. University of Canberra
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    • My thanks to the journal's two anonymous referees and to Andrew Hindmoor for their helpful feedback on an earlier draft of this paper. This research was supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project number DP1096759).


In his work on policy development, John Kingdon discusses the role of “policy entrepreneurs” in advocating particular solutions to policy problems. This article discusses a group of policy entrepreneurs in the US who have been actively seeking to shift drought policy away from a crisis response towards an approach based on risk management. The case is discussed by comparison with the development of Australian drought policy which has taken a risk management approach since 1992. Drought policy in Australia has largely been developed in a top-down fashion while in the US policy advocacy has been more bottom-up. This case highlights a key point that Kingdon and others have made, that policy entrepreneurs cannot succeed alone in achieving policy change, and raises the question as to whether the concept of “policy entrepreneurs” is useful beyond being an appealing descriptor of influential but not decisive agents in the policy process.

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