Although their activities in this domain are often hidden from view, governments practising network and corporatist governance modes are very often actively involved in the creation and organization of policy networks and many key policy actors. An important activity in this regard is the use of government financial resources to create either the organizations themselves which go into the establishment of a policy network – research institutes, think tanks, government departments and the like – or to facilitate the interaction of already existing but separate units into a more coherent network structure (Hudson et al. 2007).
Funding is very often provided to think tanks and other policy research units and brokers by governments, either in the form of direct funding or as contracts (Rich 2004; Abelson 2007). More controversial, however, and at the
same time not very well understood, is the role governments play in funding interest groups (Anheier et al. 1997).
Interest group creation
Provision of seed money is a key factor in interest group creation (Nownes 2004). King and Walker (1991), for example, found that the percentage of groups that received aid from outside groups in startups in the United States was 34 per cent for profit sector groups, non-profit 60 per cent, national pubic interest groups in the USA in the mid-1990s and uncovered a pattern in terms of how their origin was financed (Table 7.1). While this survey revealed no direct government involvement, it did show that Foundations provided a large percentage of the funding for pressure group creation, and since these operate under special tax treatment in the USA, this gives the US federal government a substantial indirect role in interest group creation in that country (Lowry 1999; Carmichael 2008).
In other countries, however, a much more direct role is played by governments, sometimes also with a substantial indirect role through foundations, but sometimes not. In Canada, for example, Pal (1993) noted that many of the prominent national interest groups in specific sectors, such as the Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association, the Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities among Women, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council and others had emerged from conferences and workshops organized by federal government departments in the 1980s and 1990s (see also Finkle et al. 1994). Similar results can be found in many other jurisdictions. This activity is generally low profile and inexpensive, but can be considered intrusive and is not all that easily targeted, making it a less popular instrument in policy designs than network mobilization. However, where interest groups do not exist, governments may have little choice but to facilitate their creation if they wish to practise a network or
corporatist form of governance.