Policy Instrument Constituencies

A policy instrument constituency is a configuration of people, ideas and things that forms around and works in support of a particular policy instrument. The instrument and its constituency are co-evolving: each is constitutive of and constituted by the other. The more an instrument constituency reflects itself as having a collective interest in articulating, developing, disseminating and implementing the instrument that it forms around, the more it behaves as a collective actor. In fact, the instrument constituency is a key actor in the policy process and helps to explain policy change by showing how policy instruments are actively promoted rather than passively chosen. Instrument constituencies play a different role from other policy actors, such as advocacy coalitions or epistemic communities.


Together with Jan-Peter Voß, who first discovered instrument constituencies, we developed the concept in a series of articles and book chapters, most notably in Environmental Politics and in the Handbook of Policy Formulation. Meanwhile, other scholars have tuned in and the literature on instrument constituencies is growing. Instrument constituencies have been observed in policy areas as diverse as climate change, biological conservation, deliberative democracy, transition management, or transportation. Theoretical contributions include the integration of instrument constituencies (together with advocacy coalitions and epistemic communities) into Kingdon’s multiple streams framework as well as a constituency based explanation for the puzzling phenomenon of solutions chasing problems in the policy process.

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