Systematically Pinching Ideas: A Comparative Approach to Policy Design

Anne Schneider, Helen Ingram


Policy design,, whether conceptualized as a verb referring to the process of

formulating policy ideas,, or as a noun describing the logic through which

policy intends to achieve its objectives,, remains relatively uncharted

territory.. This paper reviews what we know about how policy designs

emerge,, and identifies the kinds of biases and weaknesses that are

introduced into designs by the decision heuristics employed.. Theories of

policy invention and expert decision--mmaking suggest that individuals

search through large amounts of relevant information stored in memory,,

reason by analogies,, make comparisons,, and either copy or simulate

patterns of information.. Policy scholars may contribute to improved

policy design by making more explicit the biases introduced through

reliance on decision heuristics,, and by suggesting a more formal,, self

conscious search and selection process that enables designers to be more

discriminating when they pinch policy ideas from other contexts.. To

perform this task,, comparative policy analysis is needed in which common

elements that exist in virtually all policies are identified and the

underlying structural logic of the policies is made explicit.. In this paperwe

set forth generic elements found in policies,, describe and compare some of

the more common design patterns,, and discuss the circumstances where

these may be inappropriately copied or borrowed,, thereby thwarting the

effectiveness of the policy.


policy learning, policy design, policy transfer

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@Annual Review of Policy Design ISSN: ISSN 2291-6989