When Dialogue Doesn’t Work: School Reforms and Lessons from Denmark

Carsten Greve*, Camilla Sløk

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper argues that dialogue, as a processual tool, is sometimes not enough to solve deep-seated power-relations in the policy design of school reforms. We show this through a case study of a comprehensive school reform in Denmark that has lasted from 2011 until 2020. An active policy entrepreneur, Antorini, the Danish Minister of Education, tried to design a policy process that included a broad coalition in parliament and aimed to include the teachers as professionals. Since the teachers’ union opposed the effort to change the collective wage agreement prior to the reform, the reform has remained controversial. Power and deep-seated interests blocked the dialogue. We discuss the reform’s development inspired by an analytical reform policy framework by Patashnik. The lessons learned for other countries are that the power resources that policy makers and professionals possess needs to be acknowledged openly, and that dialogue therefore doesn’t always work for school reforms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolicy Design and Practice
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)401-413
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 22 Dec 2020.


  • Policy entrepreneurs
  • Policy design
  • School reform
  • Public management reform

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