This paper provides a schematic overview of affirmative action policy in a democratic polity with commitments to multiple groups of beneficiaries. It sorts out the major choices about structure, operation, extent, duration, and evaluation that policy architects must make and suggests some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of certain architectural features. It proposes the necessity for continuing assessment and adaptation to changing conditions.

(This is a revised version of The First Samata Annual Lecture, delivered in Kathmandu on September 23, 2011.)