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This introduction starts by specifying the theoretical and analytical framework underpinning the range of essays in this special issue. It then provides an overview of the existing literature on policy networks and network governance in order to identify what a decentred approach might contribute. What follows is an account of decentred theory, a discussion of the potential alternatives it can offer to existing accounts and how these might be achieved through reconstructing networks by appealing to notions of situated agency and tradition; it concludes by considering the potential methodologies to be employed, with particular emphasis on ethnography.