Reading: Policy Making

We have learnt in the previous activity what public policy making is and how it affects our lives, but let’s deepen into the process and key principles that a Government should follow in order to nurture engagement in policy making.

To have a significant impact on people’s lives, public policies need to be inclusive of the diverse citizens’ perspectives. To be actively engaged in the design and delivery of public policies, we first need to understand them. Once the process of policy making is broken down into steps, we can decide which steps we have better chances to influence and where we can contribute the most. 

Stages of Policy Making 

Policy making is a long process, and can be split into several stages, which according to Howlett& Ramesh’s model are: agenda setting, policy formulation, adoption (or decision making), implementation and evaluation [1]. 


The first step of the policy process is turning problems (or issues) into agenda items for policymaking bodies. At this stage, a policy and the problem it focuses on are recognised to be of public interest. In practice, it means that individuals and/or groups must recognise that a situation is problematic, they should also be able to identify problematic aspects of the situation, as well as to propose solutions, and engage in activities that influence the government and pressure it to intervene [2]. 


Policy formulation is a key element of policy-making, and it involves the identification of possible solutions to policy problems. In this stage, public administration, backed by experts and other relevant stakeholders will look into various options to resolve the issue. They apply various instruments, such as forecasting models, scenarios and cost-benefit analysis to give priority to a solution.


Once the policy is formulated, it needs to go through the legislative process, resulting in the adoption by relevant institutions of a government. Interest groups, media, and the public have a strong say in this phase, as their actions can help push in a certain direction or completely reject a new policy if the formulation process hasn’t been transparent or inclusive.


Policy implementation means putting adopted policies into effect. There are many factors that decide the success (or failure) of implemented policies; among others are human and financial resources, the magnitude of the expected change and the groups targeted by the policy, or the complexity of the problem addressed, to name but a few [3]. If well-written policies are poorly executed, the whole process could result in the lack of trust by those who identified the problem and expected a solution. 


Policies need to be evaluated, to determine whether their implementation and expected outcomes are in accordance with the defined objectives. Policies are formally and informally evaluated by governmental bodies, experts, interest groups, civil society – including media, and public. 


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[1]Howlett, & Ramesh, M. (2003). Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems, Oxford University Press 

[2] Ripley, R. B. (1985). Stages of the policy process. In D. McCool (Ed.), (1995). Public policy theories, models, and concepts: An anthology, (pp. 157-161). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[3] Sabatier, P. A., & Mazmanian, D. A. (1981). The implementation of public policy: A framework of analysis. In D. A. Mazmanian & P.A. Sabatier (Eds.), Effective policy implementation (pp. 3–35). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Last modified: Tuesday, 14 June 2022, 9:46 PM