Combinatorial perspective on ideas, concepts, and policy change

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The evolution of environmental policy is increasingly driven by the emergence
and interaction of policy concepts and the frameworks, knowledge, and ideas
they employ. We argue that policy actors’ creative use of policy concepts often
leads to their combinatorial development. In this policy process, the concepts
interact and shape each other’s policy relevance and future development under
the influence of ideas, knowledge, and political factors. We formulate this new
research approach using ideational and policy process theories. In particular, we
explicate internal and contextual combinatory elements that enable policy
change resulting from mutual development of policy concepts. For an empirical
demonstration, we analyze the conceptual innovation, rise, and ramifications of
nutrient recycling as a new segment of Finnish environmental policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-361
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Early online date17 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • conceptual innovations
  • policy ideas
  • policy change
  • environmental policy
  • nutrient recycling
  • circular economy

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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