Context: a conceptual framework for understanding political circumstances

Resource Type:


  • To enhance the use of evidence in government policy making, by providing a systematic approach to understanding key dimensions of strategic decision-making in government institutions.


The framework provides six main dimensions of political context:

  1. macro-context: the overarching forces (structural and circumstantial) at the national level that establish the “bigger picture” in which policy is made.
  2. intra- and inter-relationships with state and non-state agents: although part of macro-context, these warrant special mention. They are the internal relationships between the public institution and other related government agencies and the interaction with relevant users and producers of knowledge who can affect or be affected by policy design and implementation.
  3. culture: the set of shared basic assumptions learned by a group.
  4. organizational capacity: the ability of an organization to use its resources (human and legal) to perform.
  5. management and processes: ongoing processes and policies, and how routine decisions are made.
  6. core resources: include budget, time, infrastructure and technology.

As shown in the figure below, each dimension is further divided into sub-dimensions. Each element of the figure is more fully explained when it is clicked on at

(Source: Politics and Ideas 2016 (PDF 1.9MB))



Weyrauch, V., Echt, L. and Suliman, S. (2016). Knowledge into policy: Going beyond ‘Context matters’. Politics and Ideas and the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications. Report, May 2016. Online: (PDF 1.9MB)

Weyrauch, V., Echt, L. and Suliman, S. (2016). Starting from context: How to make strategic decisions to promote a better interaction between knowledge and policy. Politics and Ideas and the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications. Report, July 2016. Online: (PDF 1.7MB)

Politics and Ideas. (2016). Knowledge into context: A framework to understand context. Online:

Echt, L. and Weyrauch, V. (2017). Going beyond ‘context matters’: A lens to bridge knowledge and policy. Online:

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Posted: April 2018
Last modified: April 2020