Against the odds: How policy capacity can compensate for weak instruments in promoting sustainable food

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

There has been revived scholarly interest in policy capacity recently. While it is widely assumed that capacity is important for policy performance, it is difficult to separate its impact from the effect of policy instruments to establish whether capacity can produce an independent and positive effect on target group behavior in relation to achieving policy objectives. Undertaking a critical case study where policy performed well despite the use of weak policy instruments, this paper analyzes whether policy capacity can have a positive independent impact on policy performance. The Danish program to increase the proportion of organic food served in public sector kitchens demonstrates that policy capacity can independently influence policy performance. It can compensate for the weakness of soft and indirect policy instruments and bring about policy performance that goes beyond what can be expected, given the limited ability of the instruments to stimulate behavioral change. A high level of capacity was achieved by drawing on resources possessed by interest groups. While interest groups’ and other private actors’ positive contribution to policy capacity is recognized, only a limited number of studies have analyzed how such actors contribute to capacity generation. Therefore, this paper applies a sectoral perspective in which policy capacity is understood as the ability to pool and coordinate relevant resources available within a policy sector.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolicy Sciences
Pages (from-to)451–467
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

    Research areas

  • Denmark, Organic food, Policy capacity, Policy instruments, Public procurement

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