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Exceptional or just well connected? Political entrepreneurs and brokers in policy making

  • Dimitris Christopoulos (a1) (a2) and Karin Ingold (a3) (a4)


Policy brokers and policy entrepreneurs are assumed to have a decisive impact on policy outcomes. Their access to social and political resources is contingent on their influence on other agents. In social network analysis (SNA), entrepreneurs are often closely associated with brokers, because both are agents presumed to benefit from bridging structural holes; for example, gaining advantage through occupying a strategic position in relational space. Our aim here is twofold. First, to conceptually and operationally differentiate policy brokers from policy entrepreneurs premised on assumptions in the policy-process literature; and second, via SNA, to use the output of core algorithms in a cross-sectional analysis of political brokerage and political entrepreneurship. We attempt to simplify the use of graph algebra in answering questions relevant to policy analysis by placing each algorithm within its theoretical context. In the methodology employed, we first identify actors and graph their relations of influence within a specific policy event; then we select the most central actors; and compare their rank in a series of statistics that capture different aspects of their network advantage. We examine betweenness centrality, positive and negative Bonacich power, Burt’s effective size and constraint and honest brokerage as paradigmatic. We employ two case studies to demonstrate the advantages and limitations of each algorithm for differentiating between brokers and entrepreneurs: one on Swiss climate policy and one on EU competition and transport policy.


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