Policy Sciences

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 249–266 | Cite as

Experimentation in policy design: insights from the building sector

  • Jeroen van der HeijdenEmail author


The current article questions how experimentation in policy design plays out in practice. In particular, it is interested in understanding how the content and process of policy-design experiments affect their outcomes. The article does so by building on an original study into 31 real-world examples of experimentation in policy design in the building sector in Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States. All examples aim to improve the environmental sustainability of the building sector. The article finds that these 31 examples have attracted moderate to substantial numbers of participants (policy outcome HO.i), but have not achieved substantial numbers of buildings built or retrofitted with high levels of sustainability (policy outcome HO.ii). By carefully unpacking these policy designs into a number of key characteristics, it finds that this mismatch between the two outcomes may partly be explained by flawed policy-design processes. The article concludes with the main lessons learnt and provides some suggestions on how to improve experimentation in policy design.


Policy design Policymaking Policy evaluation Experimentation Policy learning 



The research presented in this paper is funded through a VENI early career researchers grant by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (451-11-05). I wish to thank my colleagues at RegNet, the participants of the Policy Design Workshop (NUS, February 28 and March 1, 2013, Singapore), and the six anonymous reviewers of this journal for helpful comments to earlier drafts of this article. Finally, I wish to thank all participants for giving me some of their time for our meetings and for sharing valuable insights into their experiences with experimentation in policy design.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet), Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, College of Asia and the PacificAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Netherlands China Law Centre, Amsterdam Law SchoolUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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