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Institutional analysis

This tool incorporates a broad perspective on institutions and map the interactions between them.

Description of the tool

Although there is no widely accepted framework for analysing institutions, this framework will help you thinking critically about how institutions influence your intervention, as key to any social change-focused development.

What institutions are:

  • Institutions are the rules and regulations, mechanisms, norms and values that influence livelihood, be they formal or informal. 
  • Institutions are stable, valued, recurring patterns of behaviour that persist over time by serving collective valued purposes. 
  • Institutional constraints do on the one hand state what is considered normal and appropriate behaviour and on the other hand they reduce uncertainty and award proper behaviour. 
  • Institutions can be seen as the result of a group of people to ensure their vested interests in a particular situation. In effect, institutions do determine the structure of formal and informal power arrangements, such as property rights and access to livelihoods assets. 

What the differences with organisations are:

  • Organisations: structures that have been created to take advantage of the opportunities for action provided by existing institutions, or to implement new institutions such as laws and regulations. 
  • Institutions: the rules, organisations and social norms that facilitate human and organisational action. As such institutions are essential in determining efficient, sustainable and equitable development outcomes since their functioning helps in creating trust and confidence in joint potential.


The figure below shows a simple framework for asking critical questions about different types of institutions - formal and informal -and how they interact, and often reinforce each other:

In summary, institutional analysis framework incorporates attention for four main functions of institutions, namely:

1. Institutions as ways of making meaning of our lives and the social and natural world we inhabit.

2. Institutions as the associations we make to work together to achieve social, economic and political objectives.

3. Institutions as the basis for control over what individuals and organisations should or can do.

4. Institutions as reoccurring action carried out by individuals or organisations in social, economic and political life.





Tool Overview

Aim of the toolTo analyse the relevant institutions
for the specific topic around your intervention.
When to use it?The framework is particularly useful at the beginning of anintervention. However, beware of going too deep into it and focus what is really relevant and important to know in relation to your case.