Toward a processual understanding of policy integration

Jeroen J.L. Candel*, Robbert Biesbroek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


The role of policy integration in the governance of cross-cutting policy problems has attracted increasing scholarly attention in recent years. Nevertheless, the concept of policy (dis)integration is still under theorized, particularly regarding its inherent processual nature. The main argument of this paper is that policy integration should be understood as a process that entails various elements that do not necessarily move in a concerted manner but may develop at different paces or even in opposite directions. To study such dynamic integration pathways, the paper proposes a multi-dimensional framework. Drawing on existing literature, the framework distinguishes four dimensions of integration: (1) policy frame, (2), subsystem involvement, (3) policy goals, and (4) policy instruments. For each of these dimensions, we describe different manifestations that are associated with lesser or more advanced degrees of policy integration within a governance system. Apart from offering an innovative theoretical approach that does justice to the dynamic and oftentimes asynchronous nature of integration processes, the framework allows for holding decision-makers accountable for promises they make about enhancing policy integration. Simultaneously, it is argued that the merit of lower degrees of integration should not be underestimated, as these may sometimes be the most feasible or appropriate for the governance of a cross-cutting problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-231
JournalPolicy Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Cross-cutting policy problems
  • Integrated strategies
  • Policy coherence
  • Policy coordination
  • Policy integration

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