Policy Brief Assignment

Maximum length: 4 pages including appendices but excluding cover sheet and references.


This is a policy brief assignment, which requires you to apply your knowledge and understanding of economics to a real-world scenario, and to communicate this application in a clear and accessible manner. You should write your policy brief to be read by a wide audience, from academics and policy makers to the general public.

There is a strict page limit of 4 pages for this assignment, but this does not include the cover sheet or your references. You must also adhere to the formatting requirements which are given at the end of this document. You are also required to abide by the University of Stirling’s Academic Integrity policy: this is an individual assignment and therefore your work should be your own. You should use wider reading and other sources to add weight and detail to your argument, but this should be done carefully with correct referencing and appropriate paraphrasing.

Your policy brief should have a clear introduction, a conclusion, and a set of references at the end.

Policy Brief Task

You are approached by a member of a government or a charitable organisation who wish to use your expertise in economics. You are asked to produce a short policy brief that demonstrates how an understanding of social interactions can help to give insights on why a particular real-world social dilemma exists, and what could be done to overcome it. Your policy brief will be published on the organisation’s website, so it must be written professionally and accessibly.

Policy Brief Guidance

In responding to the above task, you can choose to look at any real-world example of a social dilemma. Your example must be a real-world example – failure to do this (i.e. discussing a hypothetical example) will result in failing the assignment. You should also not use the real-world examples of social dilemmas that are discussed in the ESPP text or in the weekly learning materials. This assignment is asking you to demonstrate your ability to find a real-world social dilemma. I will be awarding extra marks for being original in the examples used.

You should explain what the real-world social dilemma is, and convince the reader (me) that it satisfies the criteria of a social dilemma. Note that a social dilemma is where two or more economic agents are acting in self-interest but they are not fully aware of the impact their actions have on others. Whilst a Prisoners Dilemma can be used to illustrate the payoffs of a social interaction, a social dilemma is not the result of a strategic interaction.

You should describe your social dilemma in two game matrices, similar to Figures 2.3a and 2.3b of ESPP. Your first payoff matrix therefore should be descriptive, and the second should be a payoff matrix showing the payoffs for each of the four possible outcomes. (NOTE: you are encouraged to create payoffs that are relevant to your chosen social dilemma – do not simply use the example in the ESPP text. Again, I will award extra points for being original).

Explain the payoffs assigned to each strategy and outcome, and explain how they are relevant in explaining the social dilemma. Explain the ‘rules’ of your game (identify the players, discuss if there is full information, discuss whether this a repeated or one-shot game, etc.) Discuss the concepts of dominant strategies, Nash equilibrium and self-interested behaviour. Using your payoff matrix, describe the Nash equilibrium in your chosen social dilemma, and thus explain what outcome is predicted, and compare this with the outcome(s) that society would desire.

Finally, consider how the social dilemma could be overcome in the real world, and relate this back to your payoff matrix. Clearly explain how your proposed solutions would be successful in motivating the ‘players’ to a more socially-optimal outcome. Consider to what extent aspects of non-cooperative interactions (such as social preferences, repeated games, altruism, and government intervention) currently affect the social dilemma, and how (and why) some of these could be potentially introduced to overcome your social dilemma.

You should use real-world evidence to motivate, explore, and propose solutions to your choice of social dilemma.


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