Policy Entrepreneurs in Government Agencies

   Introduction: Government Executive 
                                                   A Marketing Program
 The Demand

The Senior Executive Service is inhabited by policy entrepreneurs whose reward is in their historical accounts—not their bank accounts.

We  read with interest each year the recipients of the Schwab Foundation, an affiliate of the World Economic Forum,  awards for social entrepreneurs. Without a doubt they make a very meaningful contribution to society. However, with very few exceptions and unlike the programs developed by the policy  entrepreneurs in governmental agencies, all the participants in the program are winners and there are no losers (adversely impacted individuals).

Conversely, policy entrepreneurs in government agencies have to develop solutions to  problems at a considerable personal sacrifice and there are always winners and some losers who frequently retaliate in any number of ways.  Our experience to date suggests that national and international recognition throughout the world  is given primarily to those social entrepreneurs who develop programs with all winners and very few if any losers.

Policy entrepreneurs are energetic actors who engage in collaborative efforts in and around government to promote policy innovations. Given the enormous challenges now facing humanity, the need is great for such actors to step forward and catalyze change.”

For a number of years CRE has promoted the greater use of policy entrepreneurs in government agencies,  however:

(1) the overwhelming majority of articles to date are extremely talented manifestos of the content and merits of utilizing policy entrepreneurs but generally lack a focused program for their adoption by federal agencies.

(2) the intellectual challenges facing the current generation of policy entrepreneurs are as great or greater than any previous generation but their rewards are as low or lower than any previous generation.

(3) it is rare that any of the articles to date emphasize the enormity of the opposition to the work of policy entrepreneurs where there are always winners and losers, please see  Legal Opposition to Executive Order 12291 .

One Example

          Policy Entrepreneurs: The Power of Audacity Bruce Levinson | 05/21/13

“The most powerful, influential, and creative people in any society are its entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial endeavors span every field of human enterprise: commerce, academia, the arts, and, yes, even the career civil service.

The power of civil service entrepreneurship was beautifully illustrated in a recent book by Ken Godwin, Scott Ainsworth and Erik Godwin, Lobbying and Policymaking, which shows how policy change depends on entrepreneurship, whether from inside or outside of government.

In a recent article, Jim Tozzi, a former official at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), provides an accounting of the events during the Johnson through Carter Administrations that resulted in the founding of OIRA in 1980, a successful entrepreneurship undertaken from within the civil service. As it happens, Tozzi is also featured in the Godwin et al. book — but in its discussion of the Data Quality Act (“DQA”) of 2001, an example of civil service entrepreneurship undertaken from outside the government.” AI Search (Bing): OIRA

The above program is highlighted as a result of the work of policy entrepreneurs because: 

 (1) it describes a major, but easily understandable, accomplishment, the establishment of centralized regulatory review in the White House Office of Management and Budget  which requires agencies to  perform benefit-cost analyses of proposed regulations and send the results to OMB.

(2) there is a living history of thousands of pages of background material which delineate the debates that took place over nearly  twenty years prior to its adoption, a rich library which provides an analytical base for further inquiry.


The collective effort of the Schwab Foundation, in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, and the Senior Executive Service could create a coupling for addressing the contributions made by policy entrepreneurs in government agencies. The aforementioned option has considerable merit, but it also has a number of shortcomings. In particular it appears that the sole interest of the foundation is on the very notable contributions of social entrepreneurs but not those of policy entrepreneurs. It is for this reason that CRE is actively exploring the involvement of groups which focus on policy entrepreneurs with a particular emphasis on foreign universities.

Next Steps:

In order to provide policy entrepreneurs with a worldwide recognition of their accomplishments and to highlight that they receive only a minimal financial compensation:

(1) continue discussions with federal agencies, private sector firms and universities to seek their guidance and participation in the promotion of the accomplishments of policy entrepreneurs in national and international forums.

(2) develop a program which recognizes and encourages Federal agencies to utilize  policy entrepreneurs. Hopefully the timely PMA Learning Agenda will address this topic and in doing set the stage for the continued involvement of federal agencies in implementing Policy Entrepreneurs in Government Agencies”

(3) develop an initiative aimed at firms in the private sector to publicize the accomplishments of policy entrepreneurs.

(4) affected parties should publish the names of policy entrepreneurs on their websites and so notify the media.

Bottom Line:  Policy Entrepreneurs are long on influence but short on affluence.

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