Policy analysis

Policy analysis

Policy analysis can be defined as "determining which of various alternative policies will most achieve a given set of goals in light of the relations between the policies and the goals" [Nagel, Stuart S. (Ed.), 1999, Policy Analysis Methods. New Science Publishers, Inc.] . However, policy analysis can be divided into two major fields. Analysis of policy is analytical and descriptive -- i.e., it attempts to explain policies and their development. Analysis for policy is prescriptive -- i.e., it is involved with formulating policies and proposals (e.g., to improve social welfare) [Bührs, Ton and Bartlett, Robert V., 1993. Environmental Policy in New Zealand. The Politics of Clean and Green. Oxford University Press] . The area of interest and the purpose of analysis determines what type of analysis is conducted. A combination of policy analysis together with program evaluation would be defined as Policy studies. [ [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0033-3352%28199811%2F12%2958%3A6%3C533%3ABTPSEA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-C&size=LARGE&origin=JSTOR-enlargePage] ]

Policy Analysis is frequently deployed in the public sector, but is equally applicable to other kinds of organizations. Most policy analysts have graduated from public policy schools with public policy degrees. Policy analysis has its roots in systems analysis as instituted by United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the Vietnam War. [Radin, Beryl (2000), Beyond Machiavelli : Policy Analysis Comes of Age. Georgetown University Press.]

Policy analysts can come from many backgrounds including sociology, psychology, economics, geography, law, political science, american studies, anthropology, public policy, policy studies, social work, environmental planning, and public administration.

Approaches to policy analysis

Although various approaches to policy analysis exist, three general approaches can be distinguished: the analycentric, the policy process, and the meta-policy approach [see Bührs, Ton and Bartlett, Robert V., 1993. Environmental Policy in New Zealand. The Politics of Clean and Green. Oxford University Press] .

The analycentric approach focuses on individual problems and its solutions; its scope is the micro-scale and its problem interpretation is usually of a technical nature. The primary aim is to identify the most effective and efficient solution in technical and economic terms (e.g. the most efficient allocation of resources).

The policy process approach puts its focal point onto political processes and involved stakeholders; its scope is the meso-scale and its problem interpretation is usually of a political nature. It aims at determining what processes and means are used and tries to explain the role and influence of stakeholders within the policy process. By changing the relative power and influence of certain groups (e.g., enhancing public participation and consultation), solutions to problems may be identified.

The meta-policy approach is a systems and context approach; i.e., its scope is the macro-scale and its problem interpretation is usually of a structural nature. It aims at explaining the contextual factors of the policy process; i.e., what are the political, economic and socio-cultural factors influencing it. As problems may result because of structural factors (e.g., a certain economic system or political institution), solutions may entail changing the structure itself.


Policy analysis is methodologically diverse using both qualitative methods and quantitative methods, including case studies, survey research, statistical analysis, and model building among others. One common methodology is to define the problem and evaluation criteria; identify all alternatives; evaluate them; and recommend the best policy option.

Models of policy analysis

Many models exist to analyze the creation and application of public policy. Analysts use these models to identify important aspects of policy, as well as explain and predict policy and its consequences.

Some models are:

Institutional model

Public policy is determined by political institutions, which give policy legitimacy. Government universally applies policy to all citizens of society and monopolizes the use of force in applying policy.

Process model

Policy creation is a process following these steps:
* Identification of a problem and demand for government action.
* Formulation of policy proposals by various parties (e.g., congressional committees, think tanks, interest groups).
* Selection and enactment of policy; this is known as Policy Legitimation.
* Evaluation of policy.

Rational model

Policy is intended to achieve "maximum social gain". Rationally, the policy that maximizes benefits while minimizing costs is the best policy. It is a part of rational choice theory. This is step by step mode of analysis. It has its own limitations. The thinking procedure implied is linear and can face difficulties in extra ordinary problems or chaotic problems which has no sequences of happenings.

Incremental model

Policy is a continuation of previous government activity, with minimal changes made to previous policy. The goal is a systematic periodic review.

Group model

The political system's role is to establish and enforce compromise between various, conflicting interests in society.

Elite model

Policy is a reflection of the interests of those individuals within a society that have the most power, rather than the demands of the mass.

Policy Analysis in six easy steps

#Verify, define and detail the problem
#Establish an evaluation criteria
#Identify alternative policies
#Evaluate alternative policies
#Display and distinguish among alternative policies
#Monitor the implemented policy

See policy cycle for a five step and an eight step approach.

ee also

* Policy studies
* Public policy
* Think tanks
* Eightfold Path (policy analysis)


Further reading

*Eugene Bardach, "A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving"
*David L. Weimer and Aidan R. Vining, "Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice", Prentice Hall
*Frank Fischer, Gerald J. Miller. & Mara S. Sidney (eds.) "Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Methods, and Politics", New York, Marcel Dekker Inc. 2006.

External links

* [http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9210/policy.htm Policy Analysis for School Districts] - from the Education Resources Information Center Clearinghouse on Educational Management, Eugene, Oregon.
* [http://www.thinktankdirectory.com "Think Tank Directory"] . A Guide to Independent Nonprofit Public Policy Research Organizations.

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