Not available in 2023/24
PP414W      Half Unit
Policy-Making: Process, Challenges and Outcomes

This information is for the 2023/24 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-Sciences Po), 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.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically very high. 

Course content

This course shall help students construct an analytical mindset to policymaking, through the application of a bespoke policy-making toolbox developed by the professor.  The course offers an end-to-end guide of key elements that affect decision-making and decision-maker through the policy process, to offer a geography- and sector-agnostic toolbox that students can apply during their future professional journeys.  It shall encompass aspects such as developing a multi-disciplinary and nuanced approach to analysing and defining a policy problem, consideration of policy options, stakeholder engagement, and monitoring and evaluation.  It offers a practitioner´s perspective on decision-making within the policy process, to complement the theoretical perspective offered by other courses.

In developing a practical intuition to policymaking, it will also emphasise the unique challenges faced by policy-makers in addressing and managing information, communication, negotiation, implementation and dealing with the politics of policies.

The course has three components to maximise student engagement and participation - lectures, seminars, and a policy laboratory. During the lectures, the professor will present an array of concepts and practical policy-making cases at the local, national, and international levels. The aim of the course is not to study specific decision-making cases, but rather to use the case-studies as examples and models of generalisable insights to understand the way decision-making processes operate in the policy world. A discussion of the lecture content and Q&As will take place in a distinct seminar at the end of each lecture.

During the policy 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 questions and comments from the rest of the class and permanent feedback from the professor and the teaching assistant. 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 while thinking through the different aspects and challenges in the implementation of the policy. Students will be required to consider and map constraints and challenges such as timing, imperfect information, stakeholders' interests, sequencing and prioritisation. They will learn the importance of emotions, interests and institutional factors in policy-making and the ways they can be used to understand contexts and 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, while analysing and factoring in various legal and practical implications for the 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 factors such as economic, financial, cultural and environmental considerations.


30 hours of seminars in the WT.

Weekly teaching structure:

Harvard-style lecture one – 90 minutes lecture and seminar

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, seminars and policy labs. An attendance record will be kept by the professor.

For the policy laboratory exercise, students will make three formative presentations/simulations on their assigned case to prepare for the final summative presentation. The professor will provide advice 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,; The Age of Perplexity; Penguin Random House; 2018.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm; Blink: the power of thinking without thinking; Little Brown and Company, 2005.
  • Juliusson, Ásgeir; 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.

  • 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. (


Presentation (40%) and coursework (60%, 1000 words) in the WT.

Coursework - Policy Memo (60%): An individual policy project based on the specific policy-making case assigned to each working group is due in Week 9.  An outline of the policy memo may be presented by the end of Week 6 in order to receive feedback by the end of Week 7 (1,000 words, worth 60%).

Submission deadline: Tuesday of Week 9 by 12.00noon

War room presentatations (40%): The final presentations and simulation exercises delivered by the working groups in the policy lab will be assessed individually during Weeks 10 and 11 of Winter Term.

Feedback will be provided on all elements of the formative and summative coursework, both in class and during office hours with the professor and TA, on a group and individual basis. Further 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).

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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