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ECPR Summer School in Methods & Techniques 2020

The Future Role of Young Academics as Policy Entrepreneurs Promoting Institutional Change and Development

Heike Grimm
Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, Universität Erfurt
Heike Grimm
Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, Universität Erfurt

Although the activities of policy entrepreneurs have received some attention in several studies, the concept of policy entrepreneurship is yet vaguely defined and, therefore, hardly integrated within analyses of change and development. To facilitate more integration of the concept, the paper offers a theoretical discussion of the typological classification of policy entrepreneurship with the goal to answer the question: What potentials do policy entrepreneurs have to promote institutional change and (social) entrepreneurial activities?
Furthermore, the paper aims at investigating what educational background policy entrepreneurs have. It is hypothesized that young academics with their multiple work tasks are prone to serving as policy entrepreneurs of the future. Due to their academic background and multifaceted learning experience, they have high potentials for policy and institutional entrepreneurship but also, for example, social entrepreneurship to promote development at various levels.
The special interest in the interrelatedness of policy/ institutional and social entrepreneurship lies in the rising number of social entrepreneurial activities in recent years as well as new public policies to promote them (e.g. by the European Union, OECD etc.). Therefore, selected cases of entrepreneurial activities driven or supported by policy entrepreneurs will be presented to better identify and assess the potentials of policy entrepreneurship while reflecting on their educational backgrounds. Again, it is hypothesized that policy entrepreneurs often have a social science but also political studies background which contributes to an entrepreneurial attitude at last.
The theoretical discussion follows a two-fold approach:
1) With an introductory differentiation between economic, social and policy entrepreneurship, a theoretical refinement is developed to better ground further conceptualization. While economic entrepreneurship is correlated with economic development driven by agents of change and innovative personalities; social entrepreneurship aims at solving social problems through individuals as well as public, private and non-profit organizations; and policy entrepreneurship aims at mediating between government, market and civil society ultimately generating innovative, institutional change.
2) After having conceptualized the term policy entrepreneurship, the phenomenon will be analyzed that young academics with social science and political studies background are specifically prone to serving as policy entrepreneurs of the future. Selected examples and profiles will be developed based on interviews, online sources and further material.
The paper shows that policy entrepreneurs have the potential to support attitudes and activities for developing and implementing creative, innovative ideas and solutions for overcoming social and institutional challenges. Neither the government nor politicians have room for experiments; both can, however, benefit from the creativity and innovativeness of academic entrepreneurs. And both have an interest in identifying efficient, sustainable solutions for social challenges. In this regard, the policy entrepreneur has the potential to serve as an important mediator and transmitter while impacting on institutional change.
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