chapter  9
19 Pages

Lost in translation? Shifting interpretations of the concept of ‘agency’: the Dutch case

Shifting interpretations of the concept of ‘agency’: the Dutch
ByAmanda Smullen

This chapter describes the evolution of the Dutch program of agencification. These experiences are presented as local translations of international trends in public sector reform. In addition, the idea of translation is applied not only to the exchange between international and national portrayals of the agency idea, but also to the exchange between national and organizational representations of agencies. A content analysis of four Dutch agency annual reports is conducted to illustrate the convergence and divergence of meaning and activities associated with the agency idea. It is argued that while the international language surrounding agencies has been adopted at a number of government levels, this adoption has been selective and translated in ways quite specific to national and organizational contexts. Contrary to global accounts of convergence in public sector arrangements, the conclusion of this analysis indicates considerable variation in applications of agency reform, even within the same national context.