Policy innovation in Dutch municipalities

Wouter Jans

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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In this dissertation, the aim was to describe and explain differences among Dutch municipalities in their execution of innovative decentralized policies. We wanted to examine the validity of the decentralization-thesis - that in the development of local policies, local governments are responsive to local priorities, and to local needs and demands of their citizens. The alternative hypothesis concerns an absence of local responsiveness and local customization of policies, because municipalities are not able to innovate according to their motivations due to existing obstacles and a lack of resources. Differences in innovativeness can become visible either through differences in timing of adoption of the innovation, or through differences in the content of the innovation. We examined administrative and political innovations that were either mandated or voluntary. In four empirical chapters we tested hypotheses about the effects of municipalities’ motivations, obstacles and resources on innovation. We have shown that the speed by which innovations were adopted, and the extent of innovation in content both seem to be mostly dictated by resources (Chapters 1-2 and 4), and incidentally also by motivations such as local needs, demands, and ideology (Chapter 3). Furthermore, obstacles were only of limited importance (Chapter 4-5). Besides the influence of local motivations, obstacles, and resources, factors external to municipalities were also influential. Horizontally, other governments in the same regional policy network were important for municipalities’ individual innovation behavior (Chapter 2-3); professional networks however had no effect on innovation (Chapters 3-5). Vertically, a national organization, the Dutch Association of Municipalities (VNG), influenced innovation (Chapter 5). At last, municipalities’ policy innovations were also influenced by the national government (Chapter 2-3). Our conclusion is that the influence of obstacles is negligible, that motivations were only marginally responsible for differences in innovativeness, and that resources could foremost account for differences in innovativeness among Dutch municipalities.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Need, Ariana, Supervisor
  • Denters, Bas , Supervisor
  • van Gerven-Haanpää, M., Co-Supervisor
Award date10 Dec 2015
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-3987-6
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2015


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