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Making policy with ‘good ideas’: policy networks and the ‘intellectuals’ of New Labour

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The proliferation of policy think tanks and more broadly the rise of ‘policy networks’ can be viewed as indicative of important global transformations in the nature of the state. That is, the emergence of new state modalities, with a shift away from government towards forms of polycentric governance, where policy is produced through multiple agencies and multiple sites of discourse generation. This paper addresses some particular aspects of this shift by focusing on a set of relationships and sites which have had some kind of influence upon the social and educational policies of UK New Labour governments. It has two main concerns. First, focusing on the generation and circulation of some of the key policy ‘ideas’ of New Labour, it maps out a related and overlapping set of policy networks which join‐up government, think tanks and some individual interlockers, who ‘straddle sectors and policy fields and settings’. Second, it highlights some of the main discursive elements that flow through these networks, in particular those of innovation and enterprise. They give particular emphasis on the role of ‘social enterprise’ and social entrepreneurs in the modernisation of public service provision and in providing solutions to intractable social problems.

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