Policy capacity and rise of data-based policy innovation labs

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Department of Social Sciences


In scarcely a decade, a “labification” phenomenon has taken hold globally. The search for innovative policy solutions for social problems is embedded within scientific experimental-like structures often referred to as policy innovation labs (PILs). With the rapid technological changes (e.g., big data, artificial intelligence), data-based PILs have emerged. Despite the growing importance of these PILs in the policy process, very little is known about them and how they contribute to policy outcomes. This study analyzes 133 data-based PILs and examines their contribution to policy capacity. We adopt policy capacity framework to investigate how data-based PILs contribute to enhancing analytical, organization, and political policy capacity. Many data-based PILs are located in Western Europe and North America, initiated by governments, and employ multi-domain administrative data with advanced technologies. Our analysis finds that data-based PILs enhance analytical and operational policy capacity at the individual, organizational and systemic levels but do little to enhance political capacity. It is this deficit that we suggest possible strategies for data-based PILs.

Publication Title

Review of Policy Research