Policy integration as the central theme of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda calls for more networks for linking actors and policies. The national coordinators of SDGs implementation have maintained a steering hierarchy that creatively engages the network of ministries to develop and implement the National Strategy on Sustainable Development. The integration literature presents a gap in understanding the internal fights of the bureaucrats behind the glossy policy documents. The study relied on 53 in-depth interviews and public documents from Finland, Germany and the Czech Republic to reveal how bureaucrats design institutions to balance
the network, hierarchy and market features by maximising the strengths of each mode. The analysis aimed to reveal how ‘Networks Within Hierarchy’ facilitates policy integration. It was found that the network deliberated slowly, rationally and personally. The supporting hierarchy provided direction, steered processes and finalised decisions, and the competitive market supplied choices of policy idea, killed bad ideas, and retained specialisation. When the network entered into endless debate, the coordinators forced a consensus through the hierarchy. Bureaucrats competed with each other in proposing better arguments for their ideas, lifting the quality of the deliberation and the consensus.
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