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Public Policy Analysis

What is Public Policy?

Public policy happens when the government tries to answer a public issue, such as healthcare, education, environmental issues, crime, transportation, foreign policy, and poverty and welfare. Public policy is whatever governments choose to do or what not to do. Whether it is local, state, or federal government they develop public policy by laws, regulations, decisions, and actions. So, behind every decision that is made there is always a process that takes place, setting the agenda, making decisions, formulation, implementation, and evaluation. So, once laws are established they are put into practice in the form of public policy. Public policy affects our quality of life and can also influence the quality of life for those in other countries. In order for public policy to work citizens must participate in the process. A lot of pressure that comes from the outside affects the creation of public policy whether it is for the better of the country or for the worst. Citizens groups as well as commercial groups put pressure on public policy to defend their interest. As lawmakers debate the making of policies and set them in place, it is important for citizens and outside groups to analyze the effects of the policy so that the wrong type of policies are not set into practice. Individuals and groups attempt to shape policy through education, advocacy, or mobilization of interest groups. There are three parts to public policy making: problem, players, and the policy. The problem is the issue that needs to be addressed. The players are the individuals and groups that are influential in forming and implementing a plan to address the problem in question. Policy is the course of action decided upon by the government and public. Public policies are widely open to influence and interpretation by non-governmental players, including those in the non-profit and private sectors. Policies are dynamic, responding to changes in the government and the public interest.

What is Policy Analysis?

Public policy analysis is determining which of several alternative policies will most achieve a given set of goals no matter the relationship between the policy and the goal. Policy analysis involves a primary concern with explanation rather than prescription. Also it is a sought out search for the cause and consequences of public policies. Furthermore, it is an effort to develop and test general propositions about the causes and consequences of public policy and to continue to accumulate reliable research findings of general relevance. Public policy analysis strives to define the problems addressed by a particular policy, assess the steps taken to address these problems and evaluate the intended and unintended effects. Policy analysis has the greatest potential to improve the policy making process when government decision makers use the results and findings to craft better policy. It occurs in political environment, in which policy makers, elected or otherwise, makes decisions about the allocation of public funds, power and resources. It requires insight, creativity, and imagination in identifying societal problems and describing them, in devising public policies that might alleviate them, and then in finding out whether these policies end up making things better or worst. It requires knowledge of economics, political science, public administration, sociology, psychology, laws, statistics, engineering, natural sciences, etc… Policy analysis is an applied subfield of all of these traditional disciplines.

The Six Models of Policy Analysis

System Model

The system model relies on concepts of information theory, especially feedback, input, and output, and conceives of the process as being essentially cyclical. Policy is originated, implemented, adjusted, re-implemented, and readjusted. The system model is concern with such things as: the significant variables and patterns in the public policy making system, what constitutes the black box of the actual policy making process, and the inputs, outputs and the feedback of the process. In the systems model of public policymaking and implementation, inputs are the demands, resources, and opposition. The outputs are goods, services, and symbols to public and other policymakers. The black box represents the conversion process.

Institutional Model

The institutional model focuses on the organizational chart of the government. It describes the arrangements and official duties of bureaus and departments, but customarily it has ignored the living linkages between them. The institutional model is interested in the constitutional provisions, administrative and common law and similar legalities. Things that are of less concern are the behavioral connections between a department and the public policy coming from it.

Neo-Institutional Model

The neo-institutional model is an attempt to categorize public policies according to policymaking subsystems. For example Theodore J. Lowi classifies policies by four arenas of power: redistributive, distributive, constituent, and regulative. Distributive policy includes for example agricultural subsidies. Constituent policy arena includes reapportionment of legislature. Regulative policy includes elimination of fraudulent advertising. Last, redistributive policy includes for example, the progressive income tax.

Organized Anarchy Model

The organized anarchy model has three streams that flow largely independently of one another and constitutes the policymaking process. First, is the problem stream, which involves focusing the public's and policymakers' attention on a particular social problem, defining the problem, and either applying a new policy to the resolution of the problem or letting the problem fade from sight. The second stream is the political stream that the governmental agenda or in other words, the list of issues or problems to be resolved is formed. This formulation occurs as the result of the interaction of major forces, such as the national mood, the perspective and the clout of organized interests and the dynamics of government itself, including personnel turnover, the settling of jurisdictional disputes among agencies and branches. The primary participants in the formulation of government agenda are high-level political appointees and the president's staff members of Congress, the media, interest groups, those associated with elections, parties, and campaigns and the general public opinion. Third is the policy stream. It is in the policy stream that the decision agenda or alternative specification is formulated. The major participants in the formulation of the decision agenda are career public administrators, academic researchers and consultants, congressional staffers, the Office of Management and Budget and interest groups.

Group Model

Another way of describing the group model is the hydraulic thesis, in which the polity is considered as a system of forces and pressures acting as a system of forces and pressures acting and reacting to one another in the formulation of public policy. Normally the group model is associated with the legislature rather than the bureaucracy. Agency administrators grow increasingly to distinguish between policies that are beneficial to the interest of the public and policies of the groups being regulated. The group model goes by the saying that what is good for the group is good for the nation, in the eyes of the regulators.

Elite Model

The elite or mass model contends that a policymaking and policy executing elite is able to act in an environment characterized by apathy and information distortion, and thereby govern a largely passive mass. Policy flows downward from the elite to the mass and prevailing public policies reflect the elite values.

The Policy Analysis Process

Verify, define and detail the problem

This is the most important step of the policy analysis process because there are many instances where the objectives are not clear or even contradictory from one another; a good political analysis will have will have clearly identified the problem that is to be resolved. This is the mandatory process that determines how efficient and effective the outcome of the whole process will be. The analyst must question both the interested parties involved as well as their agendas of the outcome. In this process you want to state the problem, determine the extent and magnitude of the problem eliminate irrelevant material, and make a quick estimate of resources required to deal with the issue.

Establish evaluation criteria

This step is important in order to compare measure and select among the alternatives, relevant evaluation data must be established. In this process it must be considered cost, net benefit, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, administrative ease, legality, and political acceptability. Economic benefits must be considered in evaluating the policy. How the policy will harm or benefit a particular group or groups will depend on the number of options available. Political and other variables go together with the evaluation criteria to be followed. Most of the time the client, or person or group, interested in the policy analysis will dictate the direction or evaluation criteria to follow. This step, deals with what the important goals are and how they will be measured. It clarifies the goals values, and objectives. It looks at the cost and benefits, effectiveness, equity, legality and political acceptability.

Identify alternative policies

In this third step understanding what is being sought out is important. In order to generate alternatives, it becomes important to have a clear understanding of the problem and how to go about it. Possible alternatives include the “do nothing approach” (status quo), and any others that can benefit from the outcome. Combining alternatives generates better solutions not thought of before. Relying on past experiences from the other groups or policy analysis, helps to create a more thorough analysis and understanding. It is important not to settle prematurely on a certain number of options when it comes to this step; many options must be considered before settling into a reduced number of alternatives. Brainstorming, researching, experimenting, writing scenarios, or concept mapping will help to find new alternatives that will help reach the optimal solution. This step considers a wide range of options, consults with experts, and redefines the problem if necessary.

Evaluate alternative policies

In this step it becomes necessary to evaluate how each possible alternative benefits the criteria previously established. Additional data needs to be collected in analyzing the different levels of influence: the economical, political and social dimensions of the problem. These dimensions are analyzed through quantitative and qualitative analysis, which is the benefits and cost per alternative. New aspects of the problem may be found to be of importance and even different from the original statement, after political questions in obtaining the goals are analyzed. Several fast interactions through the policy analysis may be efficient and effective than a single detailed one. What this means is that the efficiency is greatly increased when several projects are analyzed and evaluated rather than just one in great detail, allowing for a wider scope of possible solutions. This process considers selecting appropriate methods and applying them correctly. It also estimates expected outcomes, effects, and impacts of each policy alternative.

Display and distinguish among alternative policies

In this step, comparison schemes are used to summarize virtues, they are a great help in distinguishing among several options; scenarios with quantitative methods, qualitative analysis, and complex political considerations can be melded into general alternatives containing many from the original ones. In this process the comparison and distinction of each alternative must be looked at against the economic, political, legal, and administrative ramification of each option. Political analysis is a major factor of decision of distinction among the choices; display the positive effects and negative effects interested in implementing the policy. This political approach will ultimately analyze how the number of participants will improve or diminish the implementation. It will also criticize on how the internal cooperation of the interested units or parties will play an important role in the outcome of the policy analysis. Mixing two or more alternatives is a very common and practiced approach in attaining a very reasonably justified policy analysis.

Monitor the implemented policy

This process looks to see if the policy is actually having an impact. Even after a policy has been implemented, there may be some doubt whether the problem was resolved appropriately and even whether the selected policy is being implemented properly. These concerns require that policies and programs be maintained and monitored during implementation to assure that they do not change for unintentionally, to measure the impact that they are having, to determine whether they are having the impact intended, and to decide whether they should be continued, modified or terminated.

References

Daneke, G. A., & Steiss, A. W. (1980, August 13). Administrative Policy Analysis, Budgeting,

Implementation, and Evaluation. Retrieved July 2009, 29, from

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/994.

Hall, S. (n.d.). Public Policy analysis. Retrieved july 29, 2009, from eHow:

http://www.ehow.com/facts_5185777_public-policy-analysis.html

Patton, C. V. (1999, April 22). Social Reasearch Methods. Retrieved July 29, 2009, from Steps

for a Successful Policy Analysis:

http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/tutorial/Barrien/barrien.htm

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