Varieties of experimental policymaking

Testing policy designs in experiments before scaling them up is considered the key to good policymaking. Trials are used for policy approaches large and small – ranging from ambitious basic income schemes to small tweaks in the design of tax declaration forms. This course explores the different types of policy experimentation:

• Controlled experimentation (Randomized Controlled Trials)

• Generative experimentation (policy pilots, agile government) and

• Experimentalist governance (coordinating experiments across levels of government).

All three types of experimentation have increased in popularity and we will explore their individual logics – in terms of the basic understanding of experimentation, the type of evidence used and the underlying understanding of the policy process. A particular emphasis is on how to evaluate success or failure of policy experimentation. Throughout the course, students will work on (comparative) case studies exploring examples of policy experiments, including recent ones (regarding basic income, cannabis, police and tax) and historical cases.

This course is for 2nd year MIA and MPP students only.


  • Kai Wegrich , Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy