This work aims to address source and dynamics of institutional change. It seeks to develop analytic tools by adaptation of Schumpeterian notion on entrepreneurship, Nelson's work on basic institutions and specific institutions, and Nonaka's middle‐up‐down framework of knowledge management in contrast to top‐down process. Pragmatically it attempts to understand how to improve policy capacity that challenges China seriously.
The work adopts a detailed case study method. A paired case is chosen with the criteria that they have widespread impact in China, and are representative of general and specific institutional change, respectively. Data came from mixed sources: field work and publications. Comparison of the paired cases identifies similarities and differences of different institutional change.
Similarities in the cases are in the important role of institutional entrepreneurs, crucial necessity of field experimentation, and regulatory and legislative means of knowledge processing. Differences are that centralized “top‐down” process of knowledge development, together with committed and centrally guided field experimentation, characterizes general institutional change. In contrast, coordinated and distributed “middle‐up‐down” process, together with autonomously emerged creation at the grassroots, characterizes specific institutional change.
This is a new research area. Many more empirical and theoretical works are needed.
As to how China should improve policy capacity, the study indicates: to focus policy learning on specific parts and facets of institutional settings; to change policy‐makers' role from omni‐competent controller to catalyst/promoter of institutional change; to assign an active role to middle levels and allow broader participation and diverse experimentations.
The author explores interesting details of institutional entrepreneurship and institutional changes based on the two case studies. This work fills the gap of how to analyze institutional change from the innovation/innovation systems perspective.
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