Public policies are institutional arrangements that set the official rules of the game for society as we work together to provide public goods and solve complex social dilemmas, such as maintaining orderly and healthy communities, educating the public, protecting vulnerable populations, and sustaining natural resources. Designing policies to manage these complex social problems can be challenging. In part, this is because the institutional arrangements that comprise policies can be complex and may affect a diverse set of actors and issues in ways that may be uncertain or difficult to predict. Scholarship on institutional analysis, particularly from the research that employs the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, can offer useful tools to help understand and assess this complexity. Previous assessments and descriptions of the IAD framework, however, have not clearly explained how insights from the IAD can enhance the practical relevance of scholarly research on policy design.
As its name suggests, institutions are at the heart of the IAD framework. Institutions are the rules, norms, and shared strategies that structure human behaviour and choices, and are collectively created, adapted, monitored, and enforced (Ostrom, 2005). Thus, by ‘institutional arrangements’, we are not referring to bricks-and- mortar buildings or political venues. While institutions can be formalised, as written into policy documents, they often are defined by what people have agreed with one another about what they may, must or must not do in relation to other people or to their environment.
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