Knowing the game: motivation and skills among policy professionals

Publikationsår: 2016

Svallfors, Stefan

Arbetsrapport 2016 nr.1
(Publicerad i Journal of Professions and Organization, Vol 4 (1):55-69 (2017). DOI:

This paper focuses on “policy professionals”, i.e. people who are employed to affect politics and policy, and analyzes their particular motivations and skills. The paper focuses on the occupational practices of policy professionals: what are their main motivations and driving forces, and what are the key resources they deploy in their work? The main motivation for policy professionals is a desire to wield power and
influence the course of affairs, while their working-life satisfaction comes from getting their message into the media without becoming personally exposed. The key resource of policy professionals is context-dependent politically useful knowledge, in three main forms: “Problem formulation” involves highlighting and framing social problems and their possible solutions. “Process expertise” consists of understanding
the “where, how and why” of the political and policy-making processes. “Information access” is the skill to be very fast in finding reliable and relevant information. These motivations and skills underpin a particular professionalism based in an “entrepreneurial ethos”, which differs from both the ethos of elected politicians, and that of civil servants, and which has some potentially problematic implications for democratic governance.

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