Deliberative policy analysis, interconnectedness and institutional design: lessons from “Red Vienna”

Hendrik Wagenaar, Florian Wenninger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Complexity poses challenges to policy makers who intervene in the world. Interconnectedness, a key aspect of complexity, requires that policy makers acknowledge the compounded nature of policy problems in their design of a robust, differentiated policy. Deliberative Policy Analysis recommends small group deliberation to address interconnectedness. However, higher-order phenomena that emerge through interactions in a complex system have properties that cannot be reconstructed from lower-order phenomena by simple extrapolation. They go beyond interpersonal relations in that they involve aggregate phenomena, such as laws, organizations, and institutions. To harness this kind of administrative interconnectedness requires an ability to intervene intelligently in these aggregate entities through institutional design. Our aim in this article is threefold. First, we describe a remarkably successful historical case of integrated governance: housing policy during the 15-year period after WW1 known as “Red Vienna”. Our purpose is to demonstrate that policymaking that is commensurate with interconnectedness is possible in real-world circumstances, even unpromising ones. Our second objective is counterfactual. We will show that the officials of Red Vienna de facto engaged in a particular form of institutional design that we call “design-in-practice”. Third, we will claim that design-in-practice is a foundational tool in the methodological armory of DPA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-437
Number of pages27
JournalPolicy Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


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