New article – Policy learning and the role of interests therein: The European liberalization policy process of Belgian network industries


When individual actors are involved in a policy process, do they assess and revise their policy preferences according to their interests or are they open to other forms of arguments over time? This study examines the effect of policy actors’ interests on policy learning. It is based on a survey conducted in 2012 among 376 Belgian actors (from 38 organizations) involved in the European liberalization policy process of two network industries: the rail and electricity sectors. Borrowing from organizational research and behavioral economics, several hypotheses are drawn from a model of the individual shared by various policy approaches, such as the advocacy coalition framework. A “simple gain scores” approach to the measurement of policy learning is introduced. Regression analyses show that policy actors align their policy preferences with the impacts of policies on their own material well-being (personal interests) and the material prosperity of their organization (organizational interests). This tendency is independent of the importance that policy actors give to their interests in their everyday lives. This suggests that policy actors experience a sort of “interest shift” when they assess their policy preferences over time. This shift, however, exerts a limited influence on policy learning. The theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


Link toward the manuscript:


Link toward the published article:

Learning in post-recession framing contests: Changing UK road policy

Witting, A., & Moyson, S. (2015). Learning in Post-Recession Framing Contests: Changing UK Road Policy. In N. Schiffino, L. Taskin, C. Donis, J. Raone (Eds.), Organising After Crisis. The Challenge of Learning (pp. 107-130). Pieterlen, Switzerland: Peter Lang.

Abstract of the chapter

What role does the individual and collective cognition of policymakers play in the relation between economic crises and policy change? Post-recession road building plans in the United Kingdom (1988-2011) are a particularly illuminating case to demonstrate the complex and volatile nature of the causal interdependencies between crisis, individual learning, collective learning, and policy change within a particular collective setting. In this Chapter, we analyse the statements of all policymakers who participated to the meetings of the Commons Transport Committee (CTSC) – a crucial collective structure in the policymaking process of this sector. We interpret them according to a set of theoretical expectations about the relation between crises, paradigm changes and policy change.

The case study shows that changes in the dominant paradigms occured over time, within the CTSC. In addition, paradigm changes were clearly connected to policy changes: during each period of time, policy decisions were undoubtedly inspired by the dominant paradigm among the members of the CTSC.

Our analysis suggests that paradigm changes resulted from policy learning. However, the role that individual learning and collective learning played was very different. During each period of time, there was a fair amount of policymakers supporting different policy paradigms who participated to the meetings of the CTSC. Overall, the intensity of debates was high and policymakers had many opportunities to challenge their pre-existing beliefs by discussing with colleagues who did not share their views on road policy (“between-paradigm” ties). Despite those opportunities, at the individual level, most of the participants to the CTSC sessions did not change their policy beliefs very much over time. At best, they softened them. In fact, CSTC participants mostly discussed with other participants sharing the same policy paradigm (“within-paradigm” ties). However, there was a collective dynamic resulting from rules, routines and other structural aspects through which the CTSC, as a group, supported changes in policy paradigms. This suggests that collective structures enhancing the intensity and quality of debates are conducive to policy learning at the collective level despite few learning at the individual level. Hence, consistent with theory, collective and individual learning are connected but different processes: collective learning is more than the simple sum of individual learning processes.

Overall, this study adds evidence to policy process theories’ contention that the effects of crises, as drivers of policy change, strongly depend on policymakers’ reactions to those crises as well as the effect of collective structures on learning processes.

For more information about the book, please click here.

Call for papers on “Policy learning and policy change” (ICPP Conference – July 2015 1st-4th, Milan, Italy)

Dr. Peter Scholten, Dr. Christopher Weible and I coedit a Special Issue about “Policy Learning & Policy change: Theorizing their relation from different policy perspectives”. In the context of this project, we organize a panel at the International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP – July 2015, 1st-4th, Milan, Italy) on this topic.



This panel asks the following questions: What are the connections between policy learning and policy change? What institutional, social and individual factors do stimulate policy learning? Which learning outcomes do they elicit? Does learning cause policy change? Does policy change induce policy learning? What are the cognitive and social processes between the factors of policy learning and policy change? How can effective policy learning be promoted in policy processes? This panel is organized in the context of an international special issue project to be submitted to the Policy & Society Journal. The panel proposal is submitted under the subject category “Public policy, administration and policymakers”, sponsored by this Journal.

The panel includes an introductory paper and a number of individual papers that bring original empirical case studies on the role of policy learning in policy dynamics as well as theorize the relation between policy learning and change from different policy science perspectives. The following perspectives are already represented in our project: network theory, advocacy coalition framework, frame analysis, co-creation processes, evidence-based policymaking and epistemic communities. Even if we do not exclude to host other paper/s that are anchored in one of those perspectives, we mostly welcome papers that represent other policy perspectives considering the role that learning does or does not play in policy change (e.g., socio-cognitive institutionalism, cultural theory, policy learning and transfer or diffusion, etc.).



To submit a paper: click here. The code of our panel is T10P08.

For more info about the “policy Learning & Policy change” project: click here.

If you know some colleagues who could be interested in the topic of this panel, please, feel free to disseminate this call as widely as possible. If you have any question, do not hesitate to contact us.

We look forward to receiving your abstracts!


Dr. Stephane Moyson (Erasmus University Rotterdam:
Dr. Peter Scholten (Erasmus University Rotterdam:
Dr. Chrisotpher Weible (University of Colorao Denver:

Organizational socialization in public organizations – Call for papers

Dr. Deneen Hatmaker, Dr. Zachary Oberfield and I organize a panel on Organizational socialization in public organizations at the International Research Society For Public Management Conference 2015, University of Birmingham, March 30th – April 1st.

We cordially invite you to submit an abstract to this panel before October 2014, 15th.

We call for papers addressing the following questions: how does a public organization ensure that it prepares employees to serve the public well in a multitude of conditions? How can a public organization instill its core values and processes that enable employees to perform under stable conditions, while at the same time equip them to adapt to dynamic or unexpected events? We invite papers that address these questions, but we are also interested in papers that examine socialization processes more generally in public sector organizations. We are also open to papers that discuss theoretical and methodological approaches that are best suited to the study of public sector organizational socialization.

If possible, we would like to develop a special issue in a good-ranked peer-reviewed journal, based on presenters’ papers.

If you know some colleagues who could be interested in the topic of this panel, please, feel free to disseminate this call as widely as you want.

If you have any question, do not hesitate to contact us.

We look forward to receiving your abstracts!

Best regards,

Dr. Deneen M. Hatmaker (University of Connecticut:

Dr. Stéphane Moyson (Erasmus University Rotterdam:

Dr. Zachary Oberfield (Haverford College, United States: