Policy transfer in a corporatist context: Agents, adjustments and continued innovation

AuthorChristopher K Walker
Published date01 July 2019
Date01 July 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Policy transfer in a
corporatist context:
Agents, adjustments and
continued innovation
Christopher K Walker
School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia
This article examines a case of collaborative policy transfer from Australia to Sweden
involving a three-year project of structured analysis, piloting and system modification.
The influential role of agency and the manner in which formal mechanisms established
to manage engagement impact upon policy analysis and transfer are explored. The
analysis finds that agency mobilised with the supplementation of institutional resources
becomes a highly motivating and powerful force underpinning collaborative policy trans-
fer processes. The nuances and challenges of policy transfer from a predominantly
neoliberal administrative domain into a characteristically corporatist environment are
analysed demonstrating that domestic policy processes are critical for defining avenues
for actor participation and the manner through which policy adjustments are pro-
gressed. A key finding of the work is that policy transfer is more than the one-way
transmission of ideas, systems and practices from one jurisdiction to another but can
also act as an iterative process, more evidently linked into each jurisdictions’ domestic
policy cycles of problem analysis, action and review. Under collaborative policy transfer
the resources and interest from two distinct locations are mobilised around a policy
concern and this effectively enhances the level of critical thinking and reflective practice
that contributes to problem solving and solution development. The findings of this
study confirm that cross-country collaboration and transfer is an increasingly important
pathway in the ongoing development of policy reform and innovation.
Corporatism, policy agents, policy transfer, regulatory policy,road transport compliance
Public Policy and Administration
2019, Vol. 34(3) 308–328
!The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0952076718754617
Corresponding author:
Christopher K Walker, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia.
Email: c.walker@unsw.edu.au
Over the past two decades a major branch of study has developed within the policy
and public administration literature that considers how policy and the associated
ideas, institutions and administrative systems transfer across levels of government
and from one jurisdiction to another (Dolowitz and Marsh, 1996, 2000; Evans,
2009b). The study of this phenomenon helps improve policy practice by directly
learning from the experience of others (Rose, 2005) and also builds our theoretical
understanding of factors that shape an increasingly complex and dynamic policy
process at the local, national and interjurisdictional level (Grin and Loeber, 2006;
Marsh and Sharman, 2009).
Finding solutions elsewhere and then understanding how they were developed,
implemented and managed over time not only requires the exchange of information
between parties (Bennett, 1991) but also, in some cases, a commitment to engage-
ment and a process of collaboration (Evans and McComb, 1999). This article
examines the experience of Australia and Sweden in their ef‌forts to collaborate
in the development and implementation of a regulatory compliance programme
that targets the commercial trucking industry. Over a three-year period, a project
was undertaken to trial and assess the Australian programme and progress its
implementation in Sweden. This involved road transport agencies and industry
stakeholders from each country in a process of engagement through formal
committees and working groups. A key f‌inding of this study is the important
and inf‌luential role of agency when supported with institutional resources and
def‌ined administrative processes.
A key concern for this study is identifying factors that reshape policy as it
progresses to local implementation and in the context of Sweden, aspects of
corporatism and how it impacts on policy transfer are examined. The f‌indings
highlight how characteristics of the administrative domain shape processes for
actor participation and the mechanisms through which policy adjustments are
managed. The study of international policy transfer is also of interest since it pro-
vides insight into an aspect of the policy process that increasingly characterises
domestic policy work (Fawcett and Marsh, 2012). Governments, f‌irms and com-
munities are ever more aware of developments in other jurisdictions, nearby and
distant, and often call for innovative responses to local problems that demonstrate
global leadership. This makes policy work local in solution and focus but also a
process shaped by global trends and inf‌luences. The case study presented in this
article illustrates the global search by Sweden for ideas in crafting a local policy
response to a regulatory and compliance problem in road transport that is common
to many countries. The Australian compliance system (Intelligent Access Project
(IAP)) was considered a new and unique system that had not been tried by other
road transport agencies and hence became subject to sustained analysis and testing.
And while the transfer of policies between Western countries is a dominant theme
within the literature (Marsh and Sharman, 2009; Marsden and Stead, 2010), what
is unique to this study is that it documents collaboration and transfer between two
distinctly dif‌ferent countries in terms of location and geography and who share no
Walker 309

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