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Connecting the Dots: Applying Complexity Theory, Knowledge Management and Social Network Analysis to Policy Implementation

PAQ, Vol. 32 No. 3, (2008)

It has been more than 25 years since the publication of Lipsky’s Street Level Bureaucracy (1980), and while his work is cited repeatedly in studies of policy implementation, little theoretical work has been done to deepen our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that lead to the emergence of behaviors resulting in implementation success or failure. This article “connects the dots” between the interrelated concepts of knowledge management, complexity theory and social network analysis and applies these concepts to the study of both intra- and interorganizational policy implementation. For organizations/networks to reach their goals, they must understand: 1) the social networks at play within the organization or interorganizational networks, 2) the routines that emerge from and consequently guide patterns of behavior, and 3) important elements of the fitness landscapes.

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