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Introduction to Policy Analysis (IPA)

Client-Based Projects

Updated 12/20/2017: We are NO LONGER accepting client submissions for the Spring 2018 Introduction to Policy Analysis course.

Please visit this page in Summer 2018 for updates on submitting a proposal for Spring 2019.

First Year Group Projects (IPA)
Overview for Potential Clients

Each spring, policy consulting services are offered pro-bono to public sector agencies, and non-governmental organizations as part of the annual GSPP graduate workshop class, Introduction to Policy Analysis (IPA). Talented, hardworking graduate students work in small teams under faculty supervision to offer analysis and recommendations for complex policy problems and policy opportunities facing public and non-profit agencies. Student teams identify and weigh policy options, generating analysis and recommendations that they present to the client orally and in written reports.

Might you or someone else in your organization benefit from having a team of bright and dedicated graduate students analyze and develop recommendations regarding a policy decision, a programmatic choice or an implementation problem? Or do you know of another organization that would be interested?

What Our Students Can Do

Admission to the Master of Public Policy program is very competitive. Our graduate students have strong undergraduate academic records and years of work experience under their belts. Before IPA, they will complete core courses in microeconomics, statistics, political analysis, legal analysis, and management, and will receive training in a systematic analytical approach to problem-solving for the public interest.

The IPA workshop provides MPP students the opportunity to apply their analytic training to real-world policy problems and opportunities.  The course is one of four taken in the spring semester of the first MPP year.  A typical project involves about 200 to 400 hours of student work between February and mid-May, by a team of three or four (occasionally five) people. IPA team members are expected to act professionally, to keep confidences, and to be respectful of people’s busy schedules. The IPA faculty coaches, Jane Mauldon (jmauldon@berkeley.edu), Amy Lerman (alerman@berkeley.edu), and Mia Bird (miabird@berkeley.edu), meet with each team about once every ten days, or more often as needed.

The final products are two: a rigorous and well-written project analysis, and an oral presentation of findings given at GSPP during class time in early May. Clients are invited to attend these presentations and offer comments. In addition, clients often invite student teams to present their results to their organizations, an opportunity that students generally welcome. The deadline for the final report to clients is the middle of May.

What Makes A Good IPA Project?

Projects that are relatively narrow in scope but at the same time somewhat complex in the problems they present are more successful than projects that are overly broad or are straightforward to analyze.  A good project will require the IPA team to identify alternative strategies for their client’s problem, and to confront the tradeoffs among these courses of action. Projects may call on the team to identify and resolve some uncertainty about the projected effects of a policy choice in which the policy options differ substantially, in ways that are consequential. In contrast, projects that lack a compelling policy or programmatic choice and involve little analysis are rarely appropriate for the IPA (although they are occasionally accepted as APA (second-year) projects). Examples of less-appropriate projects include projects that are primarily research (e.g. literature reviews, or a survey of stakeholders), and projects in which the team designs a strategy to advocate for a pre-selected policy position.  

What is Expected of a Client

We rely on our IPA clients to actively engage with student teams. We ask each client to meet with the team early in the semester—in mid or late January or, at the latest, early in February – and every two weeks (more or less) thereafter. At the first meeting, the client should explain the problem, suggest sources of information, and facilitate access to data and to others that students should talk to (interviewing within organizations and efficiently using information in problem analysis are two skills addressed in IPA).  We also ask clients to read the final report and provide feedback to the students and the faculty advisor, as well as complete a brief evaluation of the overall IPA experience. Of course, many clients have much more interaction than this, sometimes meeting weekly with their student groups, but this is not required.

To prevent misunderstanding down the road, let us mention two hazards to effective relations between clients and project groups that we have observed in the past:

  • As already mentioned, we try to avoid projects that involve little more than gathering information, whether collecting survey data, program descriptions, research articles, or information about possible funding sources.  Rather, it is best to think of members of the project team as “consultants” with a fair degree of professional and analytical autonomy, who, while they may gather a considerable amount of information in the course of the project, do so in order to synthesize, analyze, and develop recommendations.
  • It sometimes happens that a client has a preferred solution to some problem and strongly urges it upon students, either explicitly or implicitly. It is vitally important that clients bring an open mind to the project and take seriously the fresh perspectives that students – with the guidance of their faculty mentor - may offer.
Next Steps

To get a project on the menu, please submit an IPA Proposal Form that describes the project, its significance, and the analytic questions students will investigate. Typical descriptions are one page in length. It is helpful if you briefly explain how your organization will make use of the students’ research and their final report. Most project proposals are finalized only after some email back-and-forth review and editing between IPA staff and project clients.  About two-thirds of proposals are, ultimately, included on the list of projects offered to students (the “project menu”). You can download last year’s project menu here. Examples of completed projects from earlier years are also available; please ask us.

We will start to review IPA proposal submissions in September after canvassing the students for their policy interests, which span energy, the environment, education, urban policy, criminal justice, defense policy, science policy, the arts, and other topics as well.  Based on student interests and the policy focus of your proposal, we assess its fit with the IPA class.

We do review on a first-come first-served basis, so the earlier we receive a project, the better the chance it will appear on the menu.  However, we will give full consideration to any projects received by November 1.  After that date, only projects that are needed to fill a gap in our project menu will be considered. We aim to finalize the project menu by the end of November so students can review and indicate preferences for projects.

IPA project teams are assembled by mid-December.  Inevitably, a few of the proposals included on the menu do not receive enough student interest to be fielded.  We realize that this is an inconvenience to clients who have worked to develop a proposal, and we do our best to select the menu to minimize the probability that a client will fail to garner a student team. But we are not able to avoid it entirely.

Teams initiate contact with clients at the start of the spring semester (mid- January) and by February are fully engaged in their projects, which wrap up in early May.  Early in the semester each team develops a consulting agreement with their client to agree on the project scope of work and set other mutual expectations.  At various points in the semester the team turns in outlines and drafts of the project report to their faculty coach, as well as meeting with their coach.  The course concludes with the teams reporting their findings at GSPP during class time and, often, presenting to clients’ organizations as well. 

If you have any questions about the process, please do not hesitate to contact us:

IPA Course Coordinator: Hannah Melnicoe (hannahmel@berkeley.edu or 303-552-8797)

Alternatively you can reach Jane Mauldon (jmauldon@berkeley.edu or 510-847-1619), Mia Bird (miabird@berkeley.edu), or Amy Lerman (alerman@berkeley.edu).

Finally, if the IPA workshop course will not meet your needs, please consider submitting the following:

  • Advanced Policy Analysis project proposal for a single, advanced student to focus more time (again, during Spring 2018) as a consultant to your organization (click here) or
  • Summer Internship Posting for a GSPP graduate student to do during Summer 2018 (click here).

Thank you for considering our policy analysis services. We wish you much success in the good work you do.


September-Early November


Clients submit project ideas for faculty review. Clients work with faculty and IPA course coordinator to develop a project proposal of interest to the client that has sufficient educational merit.

Early December


Students are presented with a menu of potential client projects. Students each rank their top five preferred projects. We assemble groups that honor these preferences wherever possible.



Clients are informed of student choices and student groups are formed.  Students contact the client in mid-January to arrange a first meeting and develop a work plan.

Late January-May


Groups meet as needed with client and regularly with a faculty advisor who guides the group’s progress. The IPA represents one-fourth of each student's workload in the spring semester.



Draft paper or sentence outline is due to the faculty advisor. Client may also provide review and feedback. Oral presentations are held in late April on GSPP campus.

Early May


Final paper due to faculty advisor and client.