The network approach has become an important part of the study of public policy, given the increased involvement of organized interests in policy development and the importance of interactions between public and private actors outside of the institutions of government. The proliferation of theoretical work and case studies of networks in a variety of policy sectors is assisted by a parallel and growing body of formal theory that analyzes networks – their structures and their characteristics and activities of their agents. The theoretical and methodological aspects are combined in an effort to establish generalizable rules about the nature of policy-making across states. This thesis examines the case of free and open source software policy and tests a set of hypotheses with respect to the formation and structure of networks and their effect on policy formulation and change at the federal level in Canada, Belgium, and Germany. These hypotheses posit the nature of linkages between public and private actors play a role in the presence or absence of policy in these areas, as do the epistemological foundations in which these networks operate. A typology is developed within which network characteristics and structure can be assessed. The importance of network structure, as well as the processes by which actors learn, are considered in explaining policy change in the cases over approximately the last decade. The project reaches the conclusion that behavioral factors, not structural ones, are key determinants of policy changes in the case studies. These findings contradict the position taken by many network analysts. The findings of this project also demonstrate the existence of policy networks in all three cases, providing environments for the dissemination of knowledge critical to policy development. The relatively insular character of these networks is notable and policy changes are found to be the outcomes of deliberate choices made on the part of a small subset of the network.
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Thesis advisor: Howlett, Michael
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