by Dave Huitema
Radical policy change is needed to attain sustainable development. Yet policy change is notoriously hard to accomplish and often assumed to be the result of serendipity. But is this really the case, or do prospects for influencing and steering policy change exist?
Water Policy Entrepreneurs. A research companion to water transitions around the globe (Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar) edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink analyzes water transitions that have occurred in the past four decades in 15 different countries, and at the global and European levels. We pose the hypothesis that such transitions are instigated by groups of individuals and ask how these policy entrepreneurs managed to influence policy. It turns out that indeed, many transitions can be traced to individuals, who operate strategically to influence policy. The water policy entrepreneurs influence transitions by drawing from a wide range of change strategies. The results show that policy entrepreneurs should not only be able to develop an attractive policy alternative, but also need to be good at building coalitions, framing issues in ways that are supportive to a new policy approach, and at the exploitation and manipulation of venues. Clearly, the management of water transitions is a highly political game, and those who would like to take part in that game need to know the tricks of politics as much as the fundamentals of water management. The mere possibility for individuals to influence policy trajectories is a hopeful message to those who face the manifold and urgent problems of modern water management. The timing and use of these strategies should be tailored to the institutional context that the policy entrepreneurs operate in.