Policy Sciences

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 363–382 | Cite as

Policy forums: Why do they exist and what are they used for?

  • Manuel FischerEmail author
  • Philip Leifeld
Research article


Policy forums are issue-based intermediary organizations where diverse types of political and societal actors repeatedly interact. Policy forums are important elements of modern governance systems as they allow actors to learn, negotiate, or build trust. They can vary in composition, size, membership logic, and other distinct features. This article lays the foundation of a theory of policy forums based on three interrelated elements: First, it discusses conditions for the formation of a forum and describes the logic of these organizations as one of an asymmetric multipartite exchange. Second, it enumerates the potential set of goals and motivations of participating actors that are fed into this exchange. Third, it proposes eight different dimensions on which policy forums differ and which affect the exchange mechanisms among actors. We claim that empirical work on policy forums should systematically take these elements into account and propose elements of a research agenda.


Policy forum Governance Exchange theory Intermediary organization 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Social SciencesSwiss Federal Institute of Acquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)DübendorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Political ScienceUniversity of BerneBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.ZukunftskollegUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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