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Introduction to Policy Analysis (IPA)

Client-Based Projects

WE ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTING ipa proposals for spring 2019.

We are still accepting proposals for the APA/CAP course: Click here to submit a proposal.

First Year Group Projects (IPA)
Overview for Potential Clients

Each spring, members of the annual GSPP graduate workshop class, Introduction to Policy Analysis (IPA), offer pro-bono policy consulting services to public sector agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Talented, hardworking graduate students work in small teams under faculty supervision to offer analysis and recommendations for policy problems and 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. They have completed one semester of core courses in microeconomics, statistics, political analysis, legal analysis, and management, and received 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. A typical project involves about 300 to 450 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), Mia Bird (miabird@berkeley.edu), and Meredith Sadin (msadin@berkeley.edu) meet with each team about once every ten days, or more often as needed.

The final products include a rigorous project analysis and an oral presentation of findings given on the Berkeley campus in the spring. 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?

A good IPA project is complex, but relatively narrow in scope. A number of past successful projects have required the IPA team to identify alternative strategies to solve a problem and to confront the tradeoffs in doing so. Others have called upon the IPA team to identify and resolve some uncertainty about the projected effects of a policy choice

In contrast, projects that lack a compelling policy or programmatic choice and involve little analysis are rarely appropriate for the IPAProjects 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 are not a good fit for IPA.  Moreover, projects in which clients have a preferred solution to some problem and urge it upon students are also not appropriate. 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. 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.

See examples of past IPA Projects

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 – and every two weeks 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, but this is not required.

Next Steps

To apply to get a project on the IPA 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. Please briefly explain how your organization will make use of the students’ research and their final report. IPA staff will work with project clients in order to refine and clarify their original proposal. Ultimately, about two-thirds of proposals are included on the menu of projects offered to students. You can download last year’s project menu here. Examples of completed projects from earlier years are also available upon request.

IPA staff begins to review IPA proposal submissions on a rolling basis in September.  Based on student interests and the policy focus of your proposal, we assess its fit with the IPA class.

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. 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.

Teams initiate contact with clients at the start in mid-January and are fully engaged in their projects by February. 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 on the Berkeley campus 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: Elizabeth Annis (elizabeth_annis@berkeley.edu)

Alternatively you can reach Jane Mauldon (jmauldon@berkeley.edu or 510-847-1619), Mia Bird (miabird@berkeley.edu), or Meredith Sadin (msadin@berkeley.edu).

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

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. IPA Staff and clients work together to refine and clarify project proposals.

Early December


Students are presented with a menu of potential client projects. Student teams are assembled.



Clients are informed whether their project will move forward.



Students contact client in mid-January to arrange a first meeting and develop a work plan. 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 project analysis is due to the faculty advisor. Client may also provide review and feedback. Oral presentations are held in late April on Berkeley’s campus.

Early May

 Final project analysis due to faculty advisor and client.