Organizations at the local and regional scales often face the challenge of developing policy mechanisms rapidly and concurrently, whether in response to expanding mandates, newly identified threats, or changes in the political environment. In the Canadian Province of Ontario, rapid, concurrent policy development was considered desirable by 19 regional organizations tasked with developing policies for protection of drinking water sources under very tight and highly prescribed mandates. An explicit policy transfer approach was used by these organizations. Policy transfer refers to using knowledge of policies, programs, and institutions in one context in the development of policies, programs, and institutions in another. This paper assesses three online mechanisms developed to facilitate policy transfer for source water protection in Ontario. Insights are based on a survey of policy planners from the 19 regional organizations who used the three policy transfer tools, supplemented by an analysis of three policies created and transferred among the 19 regional source water protection organizations. Policy planners in the study indicated they had used policy transfer to develop source protection policies for their regions—a finding confirmed by analysis of the text of policies. While the online policy transfer tools clearly facilitated systematic policy transfer, participants still preferred informal, direct exchanges with their peers in other regions over the use of the internet-based policy transfer mechanisms created on their behalf.
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