The venerable but amorphous concept of stewardship has lately gained prominence in discussions of public policy and management and is sometimes offered as a “strategy” with a distinctive potential to mobilize effective public leadership in the service of broad social missions. In this article we explore how stewardship may be useful to the theory and practice of mental health policy, and, reciprocally, how examples from mental health policy may elucidate the dynamics of stewardship. After examining its key political ingredients — authority, advocacy, and analysis — we discuss the practical challenges in moving stewardship from moral inspiration to institutional reality.

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