Political scientists and policy scholars have long struggled to understand and classify the variety of public policies found in contemporary empirical governance. This page describes an institutional approach for analyzing the policy designs that are written into public policy documents. The approach is built on the conceptual foundation of the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework and has been used in conjunction with various policy theories to dissect policy designs, assess policy design divergence during policy implementation, and trace policy design changes over time, among other research objectives.

The Approach: Institutional Analysis of Policy Design

The institutional analysis of a policy design begins with a public policy document - a text such as a legislative act, administrative regulation, or city charter - and then follows four coding steps. In step one an analyst identifies and dissects a policy's statements using the appropriate syntax (regulatory or constitutive). In step two the analyst classifies the statements according to their functional properties. In step three the analyst arranges the classified statements by the situations they are intended to structure. In step four the analyst determines the relevant levels of decision making that exist across these identified settings.

Institutional Analysis of Policy Design Applications

This paper integrates core concepts from the institutional analysis and development framework to provide a systematic approach for analyzing policy designs. The approach is illustrated through an application to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program regulation. 

This article applies the institutional analysis of policy design approach to assess policy divergence during implementation with a comparative analysis the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act and 2002 National Organic Program regulation. 

This article applies the institutional analysis of policy design approach to analyze and understand policy change. Lessons from the policy implementation, design, and tools’ literatures guide the comparative data analysis. The approach is illustrated through a study of smoking ban change in Colorado, USA. 

This research note demonstrates the institutional analysis of policy design approach's promise as a method for studying the design of constitutional documents, such as city charters. This approach is illustrated with a study of rules in municipal charters that define the roles and duties of mayors. 

This paper analyses the Colorado 2011 policy requiring disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluid information,  illustrating how the policy allocates responsibilities in sending and receiving information. An opinion survey shows divergence in perceptions of its potential to resolve problems. 

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The conceptual foundation of the institutional approach for analyzing policy designs is found within the cumulative IAD framework knowledge of Elinor Ostrom's Understanding Institutional Diversity. Sue Crawford and Elinor Ostrom's American Political Science Review article A Grammar of Institutions also represents a key publication underpinning the approach. A number of scholars' efforts are central to the approach's development; pioneers and central proponents are Christopher M. Weible (University of Colorado Denver), Xavier Basurto (Duke University) and Saba N. Siddiki (Syracuse University).