Learning in international governmental organizations: The case of social protection

Publication Title

Global Social Policy

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



Epistemic communities, Governance, International governmental organizations, Policy learning, Social protection


There exists considerable research on how national policy makers learn from abroad. A significant amount examines the processes and actors at work at the international level. In that strand, relatively little attention has gone to international governmental organizations (IGOs), aside from the European Union (EU)'s Open Method of Coordination. In this article, we carry out a comparative study of learning in three IGOs: the EU, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Our policy area is social protection. We investigate what is being learned, and the factors that promote or block learning. Our methodology involves an analysis of the formal design of those IGOs and face-to-face interviews with high-ranking bureaucrats from each organization. We observe, first, that the most important learning in IGOs concerns matters that are not part of formal agendas - governance and epistemic issues above all. Second, we see that very different factors promote or block learning in different organizations. We reflect on the implications of these findings for both theory and practice. © The Author(s), 2010.


Original version is available from the publisher at: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1468018110366617