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Governmental systems are deeply inscribed by processes of path dependence and lock-ins, yet they are also required to play a central role in both policy reform and institutional transformation. This paper offers an account of governance networks and posits a solution to the traditional problem of dynamic inertia in governmental institutions and thus provides the foundations for a theory of transformation. By first identifying network governance as a typology of institutional ensembles, the paper describes how the ‘complementary configurations' of institutions may provide crucial pathways for change. Such networks are also identified as viable enabling structures for the learning, storage, and sharing of hidden alternatives to established institutional routines. The key to their success is identified in administrative rather than political authorization.