The Formation of Public Policy Promoting Civil Society in the 21st Century

The Formation of Public Policy
Promoting Civil Society in the 21st
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
• 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
• 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
• Facts are important to the public policy
• 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 Retrieved
May 9, 2008.
• Fisher, C & Lerner, R., (2005), Encyclopedia
of Applied Developmental Science, Vol. 2,
Thousand Oaks: Sage, 898-900.