UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Try our Modules

Our globally unique MPA program offers deep insights into innovation in economics, tech, and governance.

Try our Modules
Our modules combine the theories that shape current practice with the tools to re-imagine the role of the state. In Term One, our modules cover foundations in economics and politics, including evidence-based policy making. In Term Two, we focus on organisations and design practice. You can find out more about the modules below.

The core modules in both terms combine weekly lectures, which are often highly interactive, involving debate and case studies, with small-group seminars, where students dive deeper into particular readings and tools. These activities are enriched by regular guest lectures, events, and opportunities for students to contribute to IIPP’s ongoing research and policy action.

We open up these core modules online to a small number of policymakers and practitioners globally who would find them useful for their Continuing Professional Development.

Expressions of Interest processes are run for modules individually. Term 1 Expressions of Interest are now closed. Term 2 Expressions of Interest will be opened in November.

Course structure

Term one

New Economic Thinking and Public Value 

The module will consider the alternative models for public policy, governance and administration from those focussed on ‘market fixing’ to new ones that can be expressed as ‘market making’. The latter requires all organisations, including those in the public sphere, to be equally ambitious around experimentation and exploration. This requires building new competencies and dynamic capabilities inside public institutions, which are oriented towards producing, nurturing and evaluation the creation of public value.

Economics of Innovation and Public Purpose

The module introduces students to the economics of innovation and technical change, with a focus on theoretical contributions in evolutionary and structural economics – including techno-economic paradigms, national, regional and sectoral systems of innovations, industrial ecosystem and diversification dynamics. Students are also encouraged to understand innovation dynamics in different country contexts, and what context-specific factors constraints innovation and the translation of innovation into new markets, products and purposes.

Politics, Power and Systems Change 

The module focusses on understanding systems, actors in the systems, and institutions. This includes an introduction to systems analysis and mapping, encouraging students to take a wide view of problems and their interconnection to other issues, and an exploration of systems change cases.
Particular attention is paid to policy actors and how they act within, and are shaped or constrained by, the systems that they seek to affect. As such, the module critically interrogates simplistic, linear notions of policy making. It also explores theories of power, introducing ideas of agenda-setting and knowledge-production, along with more conventional views bases on conflict and formal hierarchy.

Making Decisions: Evidence and Evaluation

This module combines a survey of policy evaluation methods, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method approaches, with a deeper discussion of the connection between a phenomenon, measurement, interpretation and, ultimately, decision-making.

Students will also engage with literature on how policy-makers use and interpret evidence and how this shapes their decision-making. This will be explored further through the use of case studies.

Term two 

Creative Bureaucracies 

Rooted in the study of public administration, this module looks at governance frameworks geared to developing dynamic capabilities within organisations, enabling them to become more flexible, adaptable and willing to experiment. The module begins by exploring the concept of creative bureaucracy – and whether that is an oxymoron! – before for looking at topics including the history of public administration, non-Western public administration traditions, and questions of ethics and representation. The module, in the second half, considers issues of digital transformation in depth.

Transformation by Design 

This module helps students develop strategic design skills and techniques for creating policy innovation cultures, processes, environments and organisations, particularly addressing the dynamics of digital transformation. The module uses tools from design thinking and applies them to issues in public administration, including policy design, public service design, and policy labs. As design has a significant practice component, the seminars are often practice-based, allowing students to apply the tools and thinking introduced in the lectures.

Digital Transformation

Public services, and their digitisation, have moved from a plaything of the R&D lab, to the multibillion-pound project phenomenon of the technology vendors and system integrators, to the realm of digital design. The provision of digital services is now a key policy enabler for most Governments globally, and for many, are the central transformation lever for entire national economic policy. This module will cover the rise of digital services, and trace their journey through public institutions. We will trace the cultural, technological and organisational routes they have taken, to explore why digital public services take their current form. The students will come out with a historic model of how we got to here, and why, and have a clear understanding of the threats, opportunities and challenges facing citizens and Governments the world over.

Rethinking Capitalism

Capitalism is in crisis, ranging from the climate and ecological emergencies, to widening inequality and rising cost of living to financial instability.  This module will provide students with a critical perspective on these ‘grand challenges’ and introduce them to new approaches to economics and policy which challenge standard thinking. The module features globally leading economists and policy makers. Previous and current lecturers include Mariana Mazzucato, Ha Joon Change, Stephanie Kelton, Jayati Ghosh, Kate Raworth and Andy Haldane.