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Tracing policy movements: Methods for studying learning and policy circulation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Astrid Wood



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Policy flows are not quantifiable and calculating processes but part of the uneven movement of ideas and experiences that involves power and personalities. Processes of learning and policy circulation have thus proven difficult to study especially as the exchanges taking place between actors and localities rarely lead directly to uptake. This paper outlines a conceptual and methodological framework for conducting policy mobilities research by attending to the plethora of ordinary practices – be it through engagements with fellow practitioners, their toolbox of material solutions, or a particular moment of discovery – that form the assemblages of learning. The paper then unveils a set of procedures for unravelling the assemblage, first by “following the people” and their understandings of mobile policy; second, by “following the materials” to experiment with a Latourian approach to materiality; and finally, by “following the meetings”, that is, the conferences, workshops and seminars where the people and materials mingle. The proposed methodology is sensitive to the ephemeral, ethereal and experiential assemblages that carve and sustain the pathways for the movement of knowledge. This interpretation of the methods for studying mobile knowledge is a critical predecessor to any empirical analysis of policy mobilities.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wood A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A

Year: 2016

Volume: 48

Issue: 2

Pages: 391-406

Print publication date: 01/02/2016

Online publication date: 30/09/2015

Acceptance date: 30/09/2015

Date deposited: 28/01/2016

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0308518X15605329


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