Making policy is often seen as Whitehall's main function. But with changes to the way the country is run and departmental cuts of 33%, policy making will need to change – both in its function and its organisation.

The Institute for Government undertook a major study into how policy is made in government. Our research identified a need to make the policy process more resilient to the pressures of the real world, but also to find new ways of tackling the systemic problems policy makers face.

There are two main strands to our work:

  • Policy making in the real world - this project looks at the repeated attempts to professionalise and improve policy making over the last 13 years and why they still leave ministers and civil servants feeling that policy could be made better.
  • System Stewardship - what is the role of policy making in an era of decentralised and redistributed power?

Our recommendations for reform, based on our findings, are set out in our report Making Policy Better: Improving Whitehall's core business.

The civil service reform plan recognised the need to improve the quality of policy making. One of the ways it proposed to do this was by making open policy making "the default”.  In our study, Opening Up Policy Making, we look in depth at the development of the National Planning Policy Framework and compare this with other ways governments have tried to open up policy making.

We have also been exploring the role of evidence and evaluation in policy making through a series of seminars jointly organised with NESTA’s Alliance for Useful Evidence and the National Institute for Economic and Social research. You can read reports of those events here:

1.    The randomisation revolution

2.    Good politics, bad policy

3.    Armchair evaluators

4.    Are independent evaluation offices the answer?

Project contacts

Director of Research