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Institutional development

This online module focuses on institutions - key organisational players, rules and norms, values and meanings - that can both advance and hinder development. Development managers, in public and private sectors and non-governmental organisations need to understand the complex institutional landscapes they work in. They also need to work with others to use, adapt or create new institutions which can promote development. This in turn means building effective relationships between the many organisations involved. This module serves to enhance such capabilities. It brings together theory and practice and provides you with opportunities for interactive learning with participants from across the world.

Note: during study weeks 18-20 you will be required to take part in a virtual Negotiation and Brokering group activity - working collaboratively online with fellow students.


TU872 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards D37, F11 and F64, which are no longer available to new students.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

Through this module you will extend your understanding of the crucial role played by institutions in development processes and builds up the skills you need to make institutional development happen. The module contributes to this by:

Exploring theory

This module views institutions as:

  • rules and norms that govern society
  • values that shape action and meanings through which individuals and organisations make sense of the world
  • ‘big players’, whether international or national bodies, or influential players at local levels, who are able to set or influence rules and norms, values and meanings.

The module recognises that, in any field of policy and practice, individuals and organisations work to different rules and norms, values and meanings, and that some organisations (as institutions) have more power and influence than others. Consequently institutional development is always a contested process: power relations and political processes are central to the analysis.

Examining policy and practice

The module applies these ideas to three fields of policy and practice that are of contemporary significance: poverty reduction and growth, humanitarian interventions (in complex emergencies) and governance. In each case there are sub-themes, for example: micro-finance (poverty reduction), forced migration (humanitarian intervention) and innovation in healthcare (governance). In examining these fields of policy and practice, you are required to critically evaluate current thinking, particularly about ‘partnership’ and ‘participatory engagement’.

Analysing inter-organisational relationships

Inter-organisational relationships are at the heart of institutional development. The module presents a conceptual framework for analysing these relationships, built around the ‘3Cs’ of competition, coordination and cooperation. This framework is used to consider the relationships between organisations across public and private sectors and civil society, what obstacles they may present and how they may be changed. The 3Cs framework has proved to be a powerful tool for thinking strategically about the relationships necessary for bringing about institutional development.

Demonstrating the use and usefulness of key skills

Conceptual skills need to be complemented by other key skills. Particular attention is paid to the development of:

  • mapping, as a way of organising thoughts and presenting views of a problem or process
  • modelling, as a way of showing how institutions might or could be developed, either with a view to direct implementation/replication or as a basis for negotiating between different approaches
  • negotiation and brokering skills, which enable individuals and organisations to establish terms on which they can work together to make institutional development happen.

These skills are developed progressively through the module, culminating in a three-week online Negotiation and Brokering Activity (Weeks 18-20), which involves working collaboratively with fellow students.

Overall, the module is valuable for managers and other professionals in public sector, private sector and civil society agencies, particularly but by no means exclusively those with an interest in local, national or international development.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress, marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. Your tutor will moderate an online forum for your tutor group and will also guide you through the Negotiation and brokering activity. There will be a programme of online tutorials. You will also have the opportunity to participate in a separate online forum for all students on this module. 

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). You must also submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA) electronically. 

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

Institutional development starts once a year – in May. This page describes the module that will start in May 2021 when we expect it to start for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    This module can be taken on its own or a module of a postgraduate qualification.

    You should normally hold a bachelors degree from a UK university (or equivalent), or have had experience of working, in a paid or voluntary capacity, in a development agency (local or international).

    If your particular interest is in international management, we recommend that you first study Development: context and practice (T877). It provides a wide-ranging introduction to international development, and will give you a solid grounding in contemporary development theory and practice.

    We also recommend, particularly if you are studying towards the Postgraduate Diploma or MSc in Development Management, that you take Capacities for managing development (T878) before this module, as it provides a good grounding in the theory and practice of development management.

    Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


    Start End England fee Register
    01 May 2021 Oct 2021 £1440.00

    Registration closes 08/04/21 (places subject to availability)

    May 2021 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Future availability

    Institutional development starts once a year – in May. This page describes the module that will start in May 2021 when we expect it to start for the last time.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    Study materials

    What's included

    This module is entirely online. The materials include: a week-by-week study guide with activities, readings, podcasts and other audio-visual material. There is an online negotiation and brokering activity which is an integral part of the module and all students are expected to participate.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    • A desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows
    • The screen must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The study materials are available in alternative formats.

    You will need to make extensive use of a personal computer and the internet.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.