Executive MPA  

Policymaking: Actors, institutions and processes

9-11 September 2021 | Executive MPA seminar

Public policies are governmental activities addressing societal problems. Public policymaking is therefore closely linked to the idea of problem-solving. This problem-solving, however, is situated in a political setting shaped by divergent interests, power games and inherent uncertainty about the future. How public policies are designed and implemented is, therefore, shaped by the interaction of a variety of actors pursuing their specific interests. Policy analysis is about the link between politics and problem-solving (enacting policies).

This course introduces analytical perspectives to systematically discuss the process of policymaking under these conditions. It also introduces policy analysis as an applied field of study that seeks to draw on analytical tools to inform the design, implementation and enforcement of public policies. A particular emphasis is put on the different ‘policy instruments’ (such as coercion, incentives and information) that governments may use to shape the behaviour of a particular target population, as well as on how policy compliance operates in a multi-level setting such as the European Union.

The course is divided into three parts:
1. Policy process: Following an introduction to the main elements of the policy process, this section aims at communicating the defining characteristics of policy issues. What is a policy problem? Why and how does it emerge (or why not)? What role do ideas and policy paradigms play in their framing? What types of tools may we draw upon to solve various problems?
2. Policy instruments: Political actors have a set of tools they can employ for problem-solving. Suitable tools depend on the nature of the policy problem as well as on the government capacity.
3. Actors and institutions: This section starts by exposing students to a focus on actors and stakeholders, including their rationales. In the subsequent sessions, the perspective will then be enlarged to include actor constellations, institutions and the broader context within which policies are developed, shaped and implemented by the stakeholders.

Instructors