Institutional Memory As Storytelling: How Networked Government Remembers

Jack Corbett, Dennis C. Grube, Heather Lovell, Rodney James Scott

Research output: Book/ReportBookResearchpeer-review


How do bureaucracies remember? The conventional view is that institutional memory is static and singular, the sum of recorded files and learned procedures. There is a growing body of scholarship that suggests contemporary bureaucracies are failing at this core task. This Element argues that this diagnosis misses that memories are essentially dynamic stories. They reside with people and are thus dispersed across the array of actors that make up the differentiated polity. Drawing on four policy examples from four sectors (housing, energy, family violence and justice) in three countries (the UK, Australia and New Zealand), this Element argues that treating the way institutions remember as storytelling is both empirically salient and normatively desirable. It is concluded that the current conceptualisation of institutional memory needs to be recalibrated to fit the types of policy learning practices required by modern collaborative governance.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages78
ISBN (Print)9781108748001
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCambridge Elements :Elements in Public and Nonprofit Administration
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISSN (Print)2515-429X
ISSN (Electronic)2515-4303


  • institutional memory
  • networked governance
  • policy learning
  • storytelling

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