Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Rosemary O'Leary


Communities of practice, Knowledge management, Public administration, Social movement knowledge

Subject Categories

Public Administration


The dissertation develops a conceptual framework linking social knowledge and public administration. Social knowledge is understood broadly as the knowledge used by people in various roles, including experts, ordinary citizens, and public officials, to solve social problems. Social movement knowledge is examined as one particular type of social knowledge. The conceptual framework used to study the relationship between social movement knowledge and public administration is a combination of several literatures: citizen participation, civic innovations, community of practice, policy learning, and knowledge production in social movements. The framework connects social movement, policy expert, and administrative knowledge through the processes of social, policy, and organizational learning. This dissertation further illustrates the complex dynamics of the relationship between these elements of the framework by presenting empirical evidence from three cases of social movements.

Observations from the three cases make several contributions to public administration scholarship. First, the analysis of the dynamics of movement knowledge production helps us understand how social knowledge enters the policy arena and thus becomes "visible" to policy-makers, how the character of its relationship to public policy changes over time, and whether the strategies of movement leaders and policy-makers depend on the dynamics of knowledge production. These insights inform the literature on collaborative governance by illuminating how knowledge production in social movements shapes knowledge interactions between movement knowledge and public sector actors. Next, the dissertation highlights how the interactions between movement communities and public organizations prevent or facilitate the transfer of movement knowledge into public organizations at different organizational levels. The findings enrich the understanding of the influence of external knowledge networks on public organizations and contribute to the literature on knowledge management in the public sector. Finally, the analysis explores the role of movement knowledge in mediating the relationships between policy learning at the national level and organizational learning at the local level. In particular, it examines how movement actors might help bridge public policies and organizational practices. The dissertation ends with a new theoretical model to explain how the knowledge of citizens manifested in social movements affects public policy and the implementation of public policy.


Open Access