Policy Analysis Guide

Here is a good outline of the policy analysis process from Dr. St. Germain’s course on public policy at California State University.

Excerpt:

1) VERIFY, DEFINE AND DETAIL THE PROBLEM
State the problem meaningfully:
Determine the magnitude and extent of the problem
Continually re-define the problem in light of what is possible
Eliminate irrelevant material
Question the accepted thinking about the problem
Question initial formulations of the problem
Say it with data
Locate similar policy analyses
Locate relevant sources of data
Eliminate ambiguity
Clarify objectives
Resolve conflicting goals
Focus on the central, critical factors
Is it important? Is it unusual? Can it be solved?
Identify who is concerned, and why?
What power do concerned parties have?
Make a quick estimate of resources required to deal with the problem

2) ESTABLISH EVALUATION CRITERIA
What are the important policy goals, and how will they be measured?
Identify criteria central to the problem and relevant to the stakeholders
Clarify goals, values and objectives
Identify desirable and undesirable outcomes
Is there a rank order of importance among the criteria? What will be the rules for comparing alternatives?
Administrative Ease
Costs and benefits
Effectiveness
Equity
Legality
Political acceptability

3) IDENTIFY ALTERNATIVE POLICIES
Consider a wide range of options
Consider the status quo, or no-action alternative
Consult with experts
Brainstorming, Delphi, Scenario writing
Redefine the problem if necessary

4) ASSESS ALTERNATIVE POLICIES
Select appropriate methods and apply them correctly
Estimate expected outcomes, effects, and impacts of each policy alternative
Do the predicted outcomes meet the desired goals?
Can some alternatives be quickly discarded
Continue in-depth analysis of alternatives that make the first cut

5) DISPLAY AND DISTINGUISH AMONG ALTERNATIVES
Choose a format for display
Show strengths and weaknesses of each alternative
Describe the best and worst case scenario for each alternative
Use matrices, reports, lists, charts, scenarios, arguments

6) IMPLEMENT, MONITOR, AND EVALUATE THE POLICY
Draw up a plan for implementation
Design monitoring system
Suggest design for policy evaluation
Was the policy properly implemented?
Did the policy have the intended effect(s)?

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