There is a wide-spread perception among academics and commentators that institutional dysfunction has become increasingly common in important social, political, and economics arenas. Opinion polls show a decline in trust and confidence in major actors and institutions, including inter-governmental organizations, governments, firms, NGOs, and religious organizations. For some, the core of the problem is that the hitherto well-functioning states have become less effective in aggregating and acting upon citizens' preferences. Many policy initiatives of the 1990s - deregulation, privatization, new public management, private regulation, regional integration, civil society, and so on - seemed to have failed to meet expectations. This symposium seeks to identify important theoretical and empirical questions about institutional failure, such as why do institutions fail, why are they not self-correcting, what might be a clear evaluative yardstick and analytic approach by which to measure performance, and to what extent contemporary theories of institutional evolution and design are useful in examining institutional restructuring and institutional renewal? Symposium essays by leading social science scholars offer important insights to inform future work on institutional performance and outline an agenda for institutional renewal and change.