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A 'practice based, deliberative and actionable' approach for understanding and fostering innovation policy governance

Policy Analysis
Political Theory
Public Administration
Public Choice
Public Policy
Ainhoa Arrona
Orkestra - Basque Institute of Competitiveness / Fundación Deusto
Ainhoa Arrona
Orkestra - Basque Institute of Competitiveness / Fundación Deusto

Abstract

The recognition of the systemic nature of innovation (Laranja, 2012; Edler et al., 2002, Arnold and Boekholt, 2003) and the complexity of both the policy world in general and the innovation policy field in particular (Borras, 2008; Flanagan et al., 2011, Magro et al., 2014; OECD, 2005a) have led to a consensus about the need to adopt systemic approaches and more horizontal modes of governance in innovation policy (Arnold and Boekholt, 2003; Laranja, 2012). In this context, policy learning is considered as a key factor for improving policymaking (Nawelaers and Wintjes, 2002; Koschatzky and Kroll, 2007) for regional development (Bernz and Furst, 2002; Aranguren and Larrea, 2011; Borras, 2011) and for the governance required for third generation innovation policies (Borras 2008, OECD, 2005a). However, a dominant rational view seems to prevail within the innovation literature both in the analysis of policy learning - which is mainly approached from an instrumental (Gilardi and Radaelli, 2012; Kemp and Weehuizen, 2005) view - and in the understanding of the policy process. As argued by Flanagan et al. (2011), there is a contradiction since innovation is seen as a non-linear and dynamic phenomenon, but this same literature implicitly draws linear policy processes. In such a view, policy makers are seen as mere depositaries of knowledge generated by the academia, overlooking differences in policy rationales and research rationales on the belief that ideas from theory are introduced in an unproblematic way into the policy process. It is precisely the disconnection between the practical rationality of practitioners and the theoretical rationality of traditional research what according to Hager and Wagenaar (2003) constitutes one of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of policy sciences. In this respect, we believe that other research perspectives could offer new insights to theory and foster new governance modes within the innovation policy field. Following Wagenaar (2011), we will argue for a 'dialogical interpretive approach' for policy analysis to contribute to the connection of academic knowledge and policy practice and for better understanding and acting upon the complexities within this particular policy field. Specifically, being based on Karlsen and Larrea's (2014, 2015) proposal of the role of the action researcher as a facilitator of policy learning, on a relational view of learning (Loeber et al. 2007), and on the insights from a 6-year action research project with a regional government, we reinterpret Territorial Development and Action Research (Karlsen and Larrea, 2014) as an explicit interpretive policy analysis approach for collaborative governance (Ansell, 2008). Territorial Development and Action Research is an specific Action Research approach developed within the innovation field which, in our view, can foster social learning that could enable changes in practices and patterns of governance (Bevir, 2011; Rhodes, 2012) for contributing to fostering systemic approaches for third generation innovation policies.