Negotiating tensions in developing organizational policy capacity: Comparative lessons to be drawn

Deborah Gleeson, David Legge, Deirdre O'Neill, Monica Pfeffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores how organizational policy capacity can be developed, drawing on a study conducted in a large human services agency in Australia. Building policy capacity within government agencies is widely acknowledged as important for successfully responding to complex policy problems. The existing literature suggests a range of strategies for building organizational capacity. Findings from interviews with policy workers support the principles for building policy capacity identified in the literature but uncovered a surprising degree of scepticism pointing to significant barriers to their realization. These barriers are identified as emerging out of the tensions between policy capacity and two other domains of governing capacity: administrative capacity and state capacity. These tensions however are highly contingent and dynamic; managing them requires a degree of discretion and judgement, in brief, policy leadership. A focus on developing policy leadership at the level of policy units and teams may present a strategic approach to building organizational capacity for policy work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237 - 263
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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