The Search for Solutions: Policy Learning in Britain and Germany (1994 - 04)

Principal Sponsor: the Anglo-German Foundation for the Study of Industrial Society

The Institute for German Studies celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2004 with a series of policy workshops. The series brought together high-level invited participants from the UK and Germany in order to discuss and debate common policy challenges and solutions in the following areas: 

  • The UK and Germany: From the Convention to the IGC
  • Security Policy in Britain and Germany: Military Reform, ESDP and Transatlantic Relations
  • Immigration and the Labour Market: Demand, Recruitment and Integration
  • Raising Productivity Levels in the UK and Germany
  • Health Care Delivery
  • Devolution and Policy Variation: Does it Matter? Evidence from the UK and Germany

As two of the world’s most advanced industrial democracies competing in a fast-changing and globalising world, Britain and Germany face many similar policy challenges. The direction of European integration, the future of devolved governance and of federalism, the task of adapting to new security challenges, the challenge of meeting ever-increasing demands for health care, the question of how to manage immigration in the best interests of a country and the search for efficient and effective structures in corporate governance are just some of the issues with which the two countries are confronted in the new millennium.

This convergence of the policy agenda is matched by a strikingly similar political situation in both countries. Both the Labour party and the SPD came to government in the late-1990s after long periods in opposition and with high expectations of their potential impact on policy output. Indeed, there was initially a high level of interest in developing joint policy solutions with the publication of the Blair-Schröder paper on the so-called ‘Third Way’ in 1999. But half-way into their respective second terms of office, both parties were  finding it difficult to meet voter expectations for better and more efficient public services in the UK and economic growth in Germany.

In consequence, there had arguably never been a better time to consider what in academic circles is known as ‘policy diffusion’ or ‘policy learning’, which, since the mid-1990s, has evolved into a sophisticated tool for understanding the sources of public policy change.

The unique Search for Solutions series of one-day workshops brought together high-level invited participants from Britain and Germany in late 2003 and early 2004 in order to engage in detailed  discussion of issues of common concern. Its aim was to identify common challenges, opportunities for and obstacles to reform, as well as common solutions. It concluded with a public conference in mid-2004, which  debated the findings of the series as a whole.

The series was jointly run by theAnglo-German Foundation for the Study of Industrial Society, which is at the forefront of bilateral policy research, and the Institute for German Studies, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2004, and which had already made an enviable contribution to bringing together British and German policy-makers and opinion-formers, having organised over fifty conferences since its foundation. Other partner organisations were involved in individual events.

In order to generate a suitably informal atmosphere for discussion, the workshops were strictly limited in size to around 20 participants and held under ‘Chatham House Rules’; attendance was therefore necessarily by invitation only. However, each seminar produced a briefing paper, distributed to interested parties and also made available on this website.

Research Outputs

The series concluded with a public conference, held in Birmingham on 10 November 2004. The workshops fed into the publication of a special issue of the journal German Politics (16/1) on policy convergence in the UK and Germany, which is also available in book form:

Simon Green and Edward Turner (2007) (eds.), Policy Convergence in the UK and Germany: Beyond the Third Way?  London: Routledge.

Final conference

The UK-German Partnership in the 21st Century Beyond the Stille Allianz?  
The conference marked both the close of the Search for Solutions research project and the Institute's 10th anniversary.

Workshops

The Institute for German Studies' policy workshop series consists of six principal events. In addition, a public conference to draw together these individual events was held in Birmingham on 10 November 2004.

The UK and Germany: From the Convention to the IGC (London, 22 October 2003) - sponsored by the James Madison Trust

Security Policy in Britain and Germany: Military Reform, ESDP and Transatlantic Relations (London, 12 May 2004) - sponsored by the ESRC New Security Challenges Programme and the Royal Institute for International Affairs

Immigration and the Labour Market: Demand, Recruitment and Integration (Berlin, 2 June 2004) - sponsored by the Institute for Public Policy Research; the Centre on Migration Policy and Society, University of Oxford; British Embassy Berlin

Raising Productivity Levels in the UK and Germany (London, 8 September 2004)

Health Care Delivery (London, 28 October 2004) - sponsored by the School of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham

Devolution and Policy Variation: Does it Matter? Evidence from the UK and Germany (Edinburgh, 20 June 2005) - sponsored by the ERSC Devolution Programme and the ESRC Social Science Week