PP414      Half Unit
Policy-Making: Process, Challenges and Outcomes

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Vanessa Rubio Marquez


This course is available on the Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Columbia), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-University of Toronto), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course is aimed at MPP and MPA students. It will offer a practitioner´s perspective on decision-making within the policy process, complementary to the purely academic perspective offered by other courses. It will focus on key elements that affect decision-making and decision-makers in the policy process. It will emphasise the unique challenges faced by policy-makers in addressing barriers and issues in information, communication, negotiation, implementation and dealing with the politics of public policies.

The course will include lectures, seminars, and a laboratory. During the lectures, the professor will present an array of practical policy-making cases at the local, national, and international levels. The aim of the course is not just to study specific decision-making cases that offer generalisable insights but also to use these cases as examples to understand the way decision-making processes operate in the policy world. A discussion on the lecture content and Q&As will take place in a distinct session (seminar) at the end of each lecture.

During the lab, students will be organised into groups that are tasked with presenting and enacting specific decision-making cases (simulations) previously provided to them. They will receive feedback from the Professor and the rest of the class. The simulation exercises used in the lab will enable students to experience all the major steps in the decision-making process: They will  equip students with the ability to: define a problem, craft a solution, propose a public policy in concept, draft a public policy proposal in detail and implement policy in practice. Students will be required to map and internalise constraints and challenges such as timing, implementation issues, imperfect information, sequencing and prioritisation. They will learn the importance of emotions in policy-making and the ways they can be used to improve outcomes.

The course has also been designed to help the students understand the relevance of developing a stakeholder map that can be used when designing and implementing policies. And, furthermore, to analyse the various legal implications for different stakeholders who are involved in the decision-making process. Students will also learn about the communication of policy choices, the relevance of the media in creating a positive (or negative) environment for policy implementation, and the way policies are determined or constrained by economic, financial, cultural and environmental considerations, among others.


30 hours of seminars in the MT.

Weekly teaching structure:

Harvard-style lecture one – 90 minutes

(Lectures and seminars)

Live 40-minute lectures will take place on a weekly basis, followed by a 40-minute seminar for Q&A’s and interactive discussions on the themes covered in the lecture. At the end, 10 minutes will be dedicated to the preparation of that week´s presentation and simulation exercise by the relevant student group.

Harvard-style lecture two - 90 minutes

(Public Policy Laboratory)

Student groups will present and simulate a decision-making case (previously prepared by the Professor). Presentations will take 30 minutes and will be followed by feedback/discussion with the Professor and the rest of the group that will take an hour.

Formative coursework

Students are required to attend lectures; an attendance record will be kept by the professor.

For the laboratory exercise, students will make three formative presentations/simulations on their assigned case, as a means to prepare for the final summative presentation. The professor will provide advise and feedback to students on a group and individual basis.

Indicative reading

  • Ariely, Dan; Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions; Harper Collins; 2008.
  • Al-Rodhan, Nayef; Andrews, John, et.al.; The Age of Perplexity; Penguin Random House; 2018.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm; Blink: the power of thinking without thinking; Little Brown and Company, 2005.
  • Juliusson, Asgeir; Karlsson Niklas and Gärling, Tommy, “Weighing the past and the future in decision making”, European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, volume 17, 2005.
  • Kahneman, Daniel; Thinking Fast and Slow; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2011.
  • Lindblom, Charles, The Policy-Making Process, Prentice-Hall, 1980.
  • Raiffa, Howard; The Art and Science of Negotiation; Belknap Press; 1982.
  • Stone, Deborah; Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making (Revised Edition); W W Norton and Co.; 2001.

  • Bush, George W.; Decision Points; Crown Publishing Group; 2010.
  • Christian, Brian and Griffiths, Tom; Algorithms to Live By; Harper Collins; 2016.
  • Giest, Sarah and Howlett, Michael; “Understanding the preconditions of commons governance: the role of network management”, Elsevier Environmental Science and Policy XXX, 2013.
  • Gilbert, Daniel; Stumbling on Happiness; Knopf, 2006.
  • Haidt, Jonathan; The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion; Penguin Books; 2012.
  • Langer, Ellen J.; “The Illusion of Control”; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 1975.
  • Mettler, Suzanne; The Submerged State; University of Chicago Press; 2011.
  • Mintz, Alex and DeRouen, Karl Jr.; Understanding Foreign Policy Decision Making; Cambridge University Press; 2010.
  • Nussbaum, Martha; Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice; Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2013.
  • Piketty, Thomas; “Self Fulfilling Beliefs About Social Status”, Journal of Public Economics, LXX, 1998.
  • Stanovich, K. E. and West, R. F., “On the relative independence of thinking biases and cognitive ability”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008.
  • Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, Antifragile: things that gain from disorder, Random House, 2012.
  • Thaler, Richard H.; Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness; Yale University Press; 2008.
  • Vertzberger, Yaacov Y. I.; The World In Their Minds: Information Processing, Cognition and Perception in Foreign Policy Decisionmaking; Stanford University Press; 1990.
  • Westen, Drew; The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation; Peresus Books; 2017.
  • World Bank, Reversals of Fortune, World Bank Group, 2020. (openknowledge.worldbank.org)


Presentation (40%) and project (60%, 1000 words) in the MT.

The final presentations and simulation exercises delivered by the working groups in the lab will be assessed individually (worth 40%).

An individual policy project based on the specific policy-making case assigned to each working group will come at the end of the course (1,000 words, worth 60%).

Submission deadline: Monday, 13 December by 16:00.

Feedback will be provided on all elements of the formative and summative coursework. More details on the formative and summative assessments will be provided during the course.

The professor will dedicate additional time with each of the groups to guide them in the preparation of their lab project (presentation-simulation).

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills