Private Citizens as Policy Entrepreneurs: Evidence from Autism Mandates and Parental Political Mobilization Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2019 Policy Studies Organization Growing bodies of research in the social sciences point to politicians, bureaucratic officials, interest groups, and other actors who serve as policy entrepreneurs. In this paper, we argue that private citizens can also serve a primary role as policy entrepreneurs. To analyze this phenomenon, we investigate the behavior of private citizens and their role in changing state policies surrounding insurance mandates for autism coverage. Using a thematic analysis of focus groups and interviews conducted with individuals active in the push for autism policy change, we demonstrate that private citizens meet all of the requirements identified for policy entrepreneurs in the existing literature. We then investigate when, why, and how these private citizens step forward into the policy process as entrepreneurs. We show that entrepreneurship occurs when private citizens have needed resources, a sense of duty to fix a policy status quo they see as unjust, and a stake in policy change. We conclude by discussing the importance of our findings to the study of public policy and their generalizability beyond autism policy.

altmetric score

  • 6.7

author list (cited authors)

  • Callaghan, T., & Sylvester, S.

citation count

  • 5

publication date

  • June 2019