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Learning in Policy Formulation: Information Utilisation and Learning Processes Within Ministerial Cabinets of the Belgian Francophone Governments

Policy Analysis
Public Administration
Knowledge
Quantitative
Decision Making
Policy Change
Policy-Making
Pierre Squevin
Université catholique de Louvain
David Aubin
Université catholique de Louvain
Lev Lhommeau
Université catholique de Louvain
Pierre Squevin
Université catholique de Louvain

Abstract

Information is the most critical resource in policy formulation, but the systematic analysis of its use has been neglected so far (Baumgartner and Jones 2015). Information is the raw material of policy learning, and in particular of individual learning by policy advisors, who are the specialists in charge of policy formulation in top governmental arenas (Craft, 2015). We define policy learning as the acquisition, translation and dissemination of new information and knowledge, stemming from multiple actors’ interactions and the accumulation of evidence over time (Heikkila and Gerlak, 2013; Moyson, Scholten and Weible, 2017). It is a process of updating knowledge and beliefs about public policy (Dunlop and Radaelli, 2013). At the individual level of policy advisors, learning is explained by the characteristics of the advisor, the subsystem, and the information sources. A series of variables reflecting those characteristics are measured and then analyzed using original data collected through a quantitative survey targeting ministerial cabinet advisors in the federated Belgian entities of Wallonia and Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. In Belgium, most of policy formulation is made in ministerial cabinets, and not so much in ministries (Brans and Aubin, 2017). Conducted in 2018-19, the electronic survey is targeting all the cabinet members of the 13 ministers in the current legislature (2014-19) (N=90, response rate c.33%). This communication presents a first descriptive analysis of information utilisation, individual learning and their conditions and uses linear regression to look at the correlations between them. The results will contribute to theoretical developments in the fields of policy advice and policy learning. References: Baumgartner, Franck R., Jones, Bryan D., 2015. The politics of information. Problem definition and the course of public policy in America. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Brans, Marleen, Aubin, David, 2017. Policy Analysis in Belgium. Policy Press. Craft, Jonathan, 2015. Conceptualizing the policy work of partisan advisers. Policy Sciences 48, 135–158. Dunlop, Claire and Radaelli, Claudio, 2013. Systematising policy learning: From monolith to dimensions. Political studies 61, 599-619. Heikkila, Tanya, Gerlak, Andrea K., 2013. Building a Conceptual Approach to Collective Learning: Lessons for Public Policy Scholars. Policy Studies Journal 41, 484-512. Moyson, Stéphane, Scholten, Peter and Weible, Christopher, 2017. Policy learning and policy change: Theorizing their relations from different perspectives. Policy & Society 36, 161-177.