The Formation of Public Policy Promoting Civil Society in the 21st Century Characteristics of PolicyMaking • Policy is often based on experimentation, chance, learning from failures, resource scarcity, lack of information, and other influences. Thus, policy formation is incremental and complex. • Policy is shaped by a multiplicity of narratives. Some gain more influence and authority than others. • Policy is sometimes determined by powerful actors, organizations or institutions. • Most public policy is a combination of rational planning, incremental change, competition among groups, elite preference vs. marginalized powerlessness, and influences by a variety of institutions. • Agreed-on courses of action and objectives are central of policy development, implementation and evaluation. • Policy making is political. It is determined by power relationships, societal norms, and values. The interplay of citizens, politicians and experts plays a role in the success or failure of policy initiatives. • Public policy is a form of pluralist democracy. Many different actors can influence the process or policy formation. • Those with the most resources, political savy, and political connections can determine policy outcomes. Activities in Policy Making • Research and Analysis: Field based research, observational data collection, case studies, focus groups, interviews, and document analysis are several of many ways of collecting data related to specific public policy initiatives. • Policy Dialogue: the communication that occurs between government and those groups/organizations that are attempting to define policy. This communication involves the exchange of ideas, knowledge and experiences related to developing effective policy. • Policy Development: May be widely general through defining policy on the basis of a whole new context, or very specific by changing particular words or phrases in pending legislation. • Advocacy: Speaking out and spreading information that influences public behavior, opinion, policy, or law. • Developing public policy requires understanding the issues and framing questions carefully. • Typical questions include: Who is influenced by this work? What are the goals/outcomes, the inputs and the settings? What is the time frame for resolving the issue? Who is the target group? What are the roles of each member of the group? Critical Questions to Ask in Policy Formation • Who are the policy-makers? • What are the sources/strengths of resistance? • Is there demand for new ideas? • What sort of evidence will convince policymakers? • Who are the stakeholders? • What links/networks exist between them? • What are the priorities of the main actors in the process? • What are the main sources of financial resources? • Facts are important to the public policy process. • Documented facts as opposed to emotional opinion is essential to defining, understanding, and creating solutions for public policy issues. List of References • Canadian Council for International Cooperation, (2006), Basics of Public Policy Development, Ottawa, Canada. • Texas Politics, 2008, “The Policy Making Process”, Available online at http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu Retrieved May 9, 2008. • Fisher, C & Lerner, R., (2005), Encyclopedia of Applied Developmental Science, Vol. 2, Thousand Oaks: Sage, 898-900.