Transferable learning: Advances in Comparative Methodologies and Practices
Location: Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand 
Convenors: Dr Amanda Wolf, Victoria University of Wellington amanda.wolf@vuw.ac.nz
Dr Karen Baehler, School of Public Affairs, American University baehler@american.edu
Comparative analyses of policies often emphasise understanding and explaining substantive policy experiences 
in different national, sub-national, or cross-sectoral contexts. However, applying insights from those experiences
to pending or future decisions requires methodologies and practices that focus on types and degrees of 
There are number of conceptual and practical pitfalls: 
1. Transferable lessons about the past, even when they are well drawn, do not on their own provide 
reliable guides to the future. The future can be difficult to forecast, and the concept of “evidence 
regarding the future” is, by definition, problematic.
2. Lessons about the past are not always well drawn, either for the purposes of local use or for transfer to 
3. Transferable lessons witin or across social units are subject to assigned meanings, pre-existing 
policies, contextual structures, cultures, values, politics, to count just a few. 
We welcome papers with a sound comparative methodology focus, which examine the transferability of lessons 
to inform robust policy recommendations in diverse policy domains and comparative dimensions. We suggest
addressing themes such as: 
• Retrospective or counterfactual analysis: What comparative insights influenced a key policy decision? 
With hindsight, what ‘lessons’ were well drawn, potentially available but actively dismissed, or
misunderstood? Can differing policy outcomes be explained by different lesson-drawing methodologies
• Methodological innovation: How has or how might comparative policy analysis benefit from current 
innovations in the use of big data analytics, scenarios, real-time evaluation and other means of trying to 
discern likely futures? What important gaps in the knowledge base are amenable to innovative 
• Methodological application: What does ‘good’ comparative practice look like? Which methods are 
favoured for specific applications, and can these be improved? For a given policy transfer need, how 
well do selected comparative methods perform?
• Implementation and evaluation challenges: What methodologies and practices aid in extracting, 
assessing, adapting, or applying lessons in the face of inevitable implementation challenges and policy 
improvement efforts? 
• Theoretical considerations: Which methodologies and practices are most theoretically sound—or ready 
for retirement—in the face of the unavoidable complexities and uncertainties of policy work?
Abstracts (300 words) due: 15 December 2015 to amanda.wolf@vuw.ac.nz
Acceptance Notification: 30 January 2016
Full Paper Submission and Registration: 1 June 2016
Venue: Victoria University’s Pipitea Campus is situated in the Parliamentary precinct of New Zealand’s capital 
Programme: The workshop will open with a keynote and reception on Sunday, 7 August, from 4 to 7 pm. All 
workshop presentations will be held in plenary sessions on the 8th and 9th of August, with one presentation and 
two discussants per session.
Workshop dinner and JCPA best-paper award presentation: Tuesday 9 August 
Wellington activities: Details TBA
Papers presented at this conference will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Journal of 
Comparative Policy Analysis following standard double-blind review.
The workshop includes a complimentary reception and workshop dinner for invited paper presenters and 
discussants as well as refreshments and lunch throughout the Workshop. The workshop fee for all participants 
(presenters, discussants and other attendees), is USD 285. 
This includes membership to the ICPA-Forum and all related benefits as well as a FREE annual subscription to 
the Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis. 
For further information about the workshop, please contact the convenors.