Policy analysis

Policy analysis is a technique used in public administration to enable civil servants, activists, and others to examine and evaluate the available options to implement the goals of laws and elected officials. The process is also used in the administration of large organizations with complex policies. It has been defined as the process of "determining which of various policies will achieve a given set of goals in light of the relations between the policies and the goals."
Policy analysis can be divided into two major fields:
Analysis for new policy, which is prescriptive – it is involved with formulating policies and proposals for example: to improve social welfare
Analysis of existing policy, which is analytical and descriptive – it attempts to explain policies and their development
The areas of interest and the purpose of analysis determine what types of analysis are conducted. A combination of two kinds of policy analyses together with program evaluation is defined as policy studies. Policy analysis is frequently deployed in the public sector, but is equally applicable elsewhere, such as nonprofit organizations and non-governmental organizations. Policy analysis has its roots in systems analysis, an approach used by United States Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in the 1960s.

1. Approaches
Various approaches to policy analysis exist. The analysis for policy and analysis of policy is the central approach in social science and educational policy studies. It is linked to two different traditions of policy analysis and research frameworks. The approach of analysis for policy refers to research conducted for actual policy development, often commissioned by policymakers inside the bureaucracy e.g., senior civil servants within which the policy is developed. Analysis of policy is more of an academic exercise, conducted by academic researchers, professors and think tank researchers, who are often seeking to understand why a particular policy was developed at a particular time and assess the effects, intended or otherwise, of that policy when it was implemented.
There are three approaches that can be distinguished: the analysis-centric, the policy process, and the meta-policy approach.

1.1. Approaches Analysis-centric
The analysis-centric or "analycentric" approach focuses on individual problems and their solutions. Its scope is the micro-scale and its problem interpretation or problem resolution usually involves a technical solution. 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.

1.2. Approaches Policy process
The policy process approach puts its focal point onto political processes and involved stakeholders; its scope is the broader meso-scale and it interprets problems using a political lens i.e., the interests and goals of elected officials. It aims at determining what processes, means and policy instruments are used. As well, it tries to explain the role and influence of stakeholders within the policy process. In the 2010s, stakeholders is defined broadly to include citizens, community groups, non-governmental organizations, businesses and even opposing political parties. By changing the relative power and influence of certain groups e.g., enhancing public participation and consultation, solutions to problems may be identified that have more "buy in" from a wider group. One way of doing this follows a heuristic model called the policy cycle. In its simplest form, the policy cycle, which is often depicted visually as a loop or circle, starts with the identification of the problem, proceeds to an examination of the different policy tools that could be used to respond to that problem, then goes on to the implementation stage, in which one or more policies are put into practice e.g., a new regulation or subsidy is set in place, and then finally, once the policy has been implemented and run for a certain period, the policy is evaluated. A number of different viewpoints can be used during evaluation, including looking at a policys effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, value for money, outcomes or outputs.

1.3. Approaches Meta-policy
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 the political, economic and socio-cultural factors are that influence 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.

2. Methodology
Policy analysis uses both qualitative methods and quantitative methods. Qualitative research includes case studies and interviews with community members. Quantitative research includes survey research, statistical analysis also called data analysis and model building. A common practice is to define the problem and evaluation criteria; identify and evaluate alternatives; and recommend a certain policy accordingly. Promotion of the best agendas are the product of careful "back-room" analysis of policies by a priori assessment and a posteriori evaluation.

2.1. Methodology Dimensions for analyzing policies
There are six dimensions to policy analysis categorized as the effects and implementation of the policy across a period of time. Also collectively known as "Durability" of the policy, which means the capacity in content of the policy to produce visible effective compatible change or results over time with robustness.
The strategic effects dimensions can pose certain limitations due to data collection. However the analytical dimensions of effects directly influences acceptability. The degree of acceptability is based upon the plausible definitions of actors involved in feasibility. If the feasibility dimension is compromised, it will put the implementation at risk, which will entail additional costs. Finally, implementation dimensions collectively influence a policys ability to produce results or impacts.

2.2. Methodology Five-E approach
One model of policy analysis is the "five-E approach", which consists of examining a policy in terms of:
Effectiveness How well does it work or how well will it be predicted to work? Efficiency How much work does or will it entail? Are there significant costs associated with this solution, and are they worth it? Ethical considerations Is it ethically and morally sound? Are there unintended consequences? Evaluations of alternatives How good is it compared to other approaches? Have all the relevant other approaches been considered? Establishment of recommendations for positive change What can actually be implemented? Is it better to amend, replace, remove, or add a policy?

2.3. Methodology Framework
Policies are considered as frameworks that can optimize the general well-being. These are commonly analyzed by legislative bodies and lobbyists. Every policy analysis is intended to bring an evaluative outcome. A systemic policy analysis is meant for in depth study for addressing a social problem. Following are steps in a policy analysis:
Defining the problem assessed by the policy.
Studying effects of the policy.
Assessing policy objectives and its target populations.
Alternative policies: surveying existing and possible policy models that could have addressed the problem better or parts of it which could make it effective.
Policy implications: distribution of resources, changes in services rights and statuses, tangible benefits.

3. Evidence based models
Many models exist to analyze the development and implementation of public policy. Analysts use these models to identify important aspects of policy, as well as explain and predict policy and its consequences. Each of these models are based upon the types of policies.

3.1. Evidence based models Types
Policies adopted within public institutions
Workplace e.g. policies that govern employees and employee-manager relations
Some evidence supported models are:

3.2. Evidence based models Governments
Public policy is determined by a range of political institutions, which give policy legitimacy to policy measures. In general, the government applies policy to all citizens and monopolizes the use of force in applying or implementing policy. The legislature, executive and judicial branches of government are examples of institutions that give policy legitimacy. Many countries also have independent, quasi-independent or arms length bodies which, while funded by government, are independent from elected officials and political leaders. These organizations may include government commissions, tribunals, regulatory agencies and electoral commissions.

3.3. Evidence based models For public institutions
One of the most widely used model for public institutions are of Herbert A. Simon, the father of rational models. It is also used by private corporations. However, many criticise the model due to characteristics of the model being impractical and relying on unrealistic assumptions. For instance, it is a difficult model to apply in the public sector because social problems can be very complex, ill-defined and interdependent. The problem lies in the thinking procedure implied by the model which is linear and can face difficulties in extraordinary problems or social problems which have no sequences of happenings.

3.4. Evidence based models Rational model See Rational planning model for a fuller discussion
The rational model of decision-making is a process for making sound decisions in policy-making in the public sector. Rationality is defined as" a style of behavior that is appropriate to the achievement of given goals, within the limits imposed by given conditions and constraints”. It is important to note the model makes a series of assumptions, such as: The model must be applied in a system that is stable; The government is a rational and unitary actor and that its actions are perceived as rational choices; The policy problem is unambiguous; There are no limitations of time or cost.
Furthermore, in the context of the public sector policy models are intended to achieve maximum social gain. Simon identifies an outline of a step by step mode of analysis to achieve rational decisions. Ian Thomas describes Simons steps as follows:
Assessing the consequences of all options - Listing possible consequences and alternatives that could resolve the problem and ranking the probability that each potential factor could materialize in order to give a correct priority to said factor in the analysis.
Relating consequences to values - With all policies there will be a set of relevant dimensional values for example, economic feasibility and environmental protection and a set of criteria for appropriateness, against which performance or consequences of each option being responsive can be judged.
Intelligence gathering - A comprehensive organization of data; potential problems and opportunities are identified, collected and analyzed.
Choosing the preferred option - The policy is brought through from fully understanding the problems, opportunities, all the consequences & the criteria of the tentative options and by selecting an optimal alternative with consensus of involved actors.
Identifying problems - Accounting for relevant factors.
The model of rational decision-making has also proven to be very useful to several decision making processes in industries outside the public sphere. Nonetheless, there are some who criticize the rational model due to the major problems which can be faced & which tend to arise in practice because social and environmental values can be difficult to quantify and forge consensus around. Furthermore, the assumptions stated by Simon are never fully valid in a real world context.
Further criticism of the rational model include: leaving a gap between planning and implementation, ignoring of the role of people, entrepreneurs, leadership, etc., the insufficiency of technical competence i.e. ignoring the human factor, reflecting too mechanical an approach i.e. the organic nature of organizations, requiring of multidimensional and complex models, generation of predictions which are often wrong i.e. simple solutions may be overlooked, & incurring of cost i.e. costs of rational-comprehensive planning may outweigh the cost savings of the policy.
However, Thomas R. Dye, the president of the Lincoln Center for Public Service, states the rational model provides a good perspective since in modern society rationality plays a central role and everything that is rational tends to be prized. Thus, it does not seem strange that" we ought to be trying for rational decision-making”.

3.5. Evidence based models Incremental policy
An incremental policy model relies on features of incremental decision-making such as: satisfying, organizational drift, bounded rationality, and limited cognition, among others. Such policies are often called "muddling through" & represent a conservative tendency: new policies are only slightly different from old policies. Policy-makers are too short on time, resources, and brains to make totally new policies; as such, past policies are accepted as having some legitimacy. When existing policies have sunk costs which discourage innovation, incrementalism is an easier approach than rationalism, and the policies are more politically expedient because they dont necessitate any radical redistribution of values. Such models necessarily struggle to, improve the acceptability of public policy.
Criticisms of such a policy approach include: challenges to bargaining i.e. not successful with limited resources, downplaying useful quantitative information, obscuring real relationships between political entities, an anti-intellectual approach to problems i.e. the preclusion of imagination, and a bias towards conservatism i.e. bias against far-reaching solutions.

3.6. Evidence based models For workplaces
There are many contemporary policies relevant to gender and workplace issues. Actors analyze contemporary gender-related employment issues ranging from parental leave and maternity programs, sexual harassment, and work/life balance to gender mainstreaming. It is by the juxtaposition of a variety of research methodologies focused on a common theme the richness of understanding is gained. This integrates what are usually separate bodies of evaluation on the role of gender in welfare state developments, employment transformations, workplace policies, and work experience.

3.7. Evidence based models Group model
This policy is formed as a result of forces and pressures from influential groups. Pressure groups are informally co-opted into the policy making process. Regulatory agencies are captured by those they are supposed to regulate. No one group is dominant all the time on all issues. The group is the bridge between the individual and the administration. The executive is thus pressured by interest groups.
The task of the system is to:
Establish the rules of the game
Enforce these compromises.
Enact compromises in policy
Arrange compromises and balance interests

3.8. Evidence based models Other
There are several other major types of policy analysis, broadly groupable into competing approaches:
Retrospective versus prospective analyses
Empirical versus normative policy analyses
Prescriptive versus descriptive analyses.

3.9. Evidence based models Techniques used in policy analysis
Cost–benefit analysis
Program evaluation and review technique PERT
Operations research
Critical path method CPM.
Decision-making based on analytics
Management by objectives MBO

4. Evaluation
The success of a policy can be measured by changes in the behavior of the target population and active support from various actors and institutions involved. A public policy is an authoritative communication prescribing an unambiguous course of action for specified individuals or groups in certain situations. There must be an authority or leader charged with the implementation and monitoring of the policy with a sound social theory underlying the program and the target group. Evaluations can help estimate what effects will be produced by program objectives/alternatives. However, claims of causality can only be made with randomized control trials in which the policy change is applied to one group and not applied to a control group and individuals are randomly assigned to these groups.
To obtain compliance of the actors involved, the government can resort to positive sanctions, such as favorable publicity, price supports, tax credits, grants-in-aid, direct services or benefits; declarations; rewards; voluntary standards; mediation; education; demonstration programs; training, contracts; subsidies; loans; general expenditures; informal procedures, bargaining; franchises; sole-source provider awards.etc.

4.1. Evaluation Steps for conducting a policy evaluation
Policy evaluation is used to examine content, implementation or impact of the policy, which helps to understand the merit, worth and the utility of the policy. Following are National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policys NCCHPP 10 steps:
Determine methods and procedures
Engage stakeholders
Determine your evaluation questions
Develop evaluation plan
Assess resources and evaluability
Clarify the policy
Collect data
Process data and analyze results
Interpret and disseminate the results
Apply evaluation findings

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