Policy Sciences

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 1-21

First online:

Understanding and influencing the policy process

  • Christopher M. WeibleAffiliated withSchool of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver Email author 
  • , Tanya HeikkilaAffiliated withSchool of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver
  • , Peter deLeonAffiliated withSchool of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver
  • , Paul A. SabatierAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis

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This essay translates some of the underlying logic of existing research of policy processes into a set of strategies for shaping policy agendas and influencing policy development and change. The argument builds from a synthesized model of the individual and a simplified depiction of the political system. Three overarching strategies are introduced that operate at the policy subsystem level: developing deep knowledge; building networks; and participating for extended periods of time. The essay then considers how a democratic ethic can inform these strategies. Ultimately, the success or failure of influencing the policy process is a matter of odds, but these odds could be changed favorably if individuals employ the three strategies consistently over time. The conclusion contextualizes the arguments and interprets the strategies offered as a meta-theoretical argument of political influence.


Advocacy Public policy Policy analysis Policy change Institutional change Learning