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Chilean government buildings

The research

This research programme aims to improve our understanding of the gender dynamics of institutional change and reform.

Overview of the research

Understanding how institutions work is an important priority for all, whether they are academics, politicians or policy-makers. And it is particularly important if we want to change institutions or understand why attempts to change and reform institutions have not worked as well as had been hoped.

It is also significant for gender equity. There have been big changes in recent years in the position of women.  But many institutions – such as the judiciary, parliaments and governments - are still male dominated, despite efforts to change this situation.

This research will examine some of these efforts to change institutions and will try to explain their outcomes. To do this, it looks not just at the formal changes in rules and structures but also at the informal norms and practices that may have an impact (both positively and negatively) on attempts to change institutions.

It looks specifically at:

  • Institutional displacement: The creation of new institutions (often at the same time as old ones are swept away).
  • Institutional layering: Cases where new institutions have been added on to existing ones – so that new and old institutions co-exist together for example new state agencies.
  • Institutional conversion: Cases where actors attempt to reform institutions from the inside using the existing rules and norms so that existing institutions act in different ways.

The research therefore aims to improve our understanding of processes of institutional design and reform and to be of use to both academics and those involved in creating and changing institutions.

Methodology and approach

The research project investigates empirically five examples of different forms of institutional creation, continuity and change using an approach informed by New Institutionalist and gender scholarship (including feminist institutionalist work).

The five have been chosen to provide contrasting cases in different institutional arenas and at different levels, including both single case and cross national comparison.  The research uses a range of methods including some quantitative statistical analysis, semi-structured elite interviews with key informants, participant observation, as well as the analysis of primary and secondary literature.