Policy change is a key focal point of policy studies; how and why do policies alter, or why do they remain stable in the face of mounting pressures? A common element underlying many of these theories of change is the existence of an alternative - a novel idea, new sought-after objective or potential solution - which provides a different option to current policy. The process of policy innovation entails that policy alternatives are established and connected to decision-makers. How do alternatives solutions emerge and become integrated into policy? The literature provides two main approaches to this question. One focuses on why and how change opportunities occur (problem drivers), the other on the skills and capacities needed (entrepreneurs, networks, evidence-base, learning) to harness and expand opportunities. This paper seeks to find a confluence of these insights, combining knowledge about policy capacity with an understanding of the opportunity structures for policy change. A literature review identifies policy capacities for innovation and matches these to policy cycle phases. This provides some insights into the skills, tools, methods and strategies which may be drawn on to progress new policy options through to adoption and implementation. Recent cases of water policy change are then explored, identifying where and how various policy capacities came into play. Cases of incremental and crisis driven change are used to provide an understanding of the opportunity structures for policy change under each scenario. The paper discusses how this approach provides a comprehensive lens for policy change explanations, and potentially provides a broad heuristic tool for policy practitioners.
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