What Policy Process?
The problem is that new policies, and policy decisions, can arise in, and are handled in, a multitude of different ways. In non-governmental sectors, they can be driven by economic, social and political pressures. In government, all around the world, Mark Turner and David Hulme were spot on when they said:
'What must be banished is any lingering idea that policy is some highly rational process in which expert technicians are firmly in control using highly tuned instruments to achieve easily predicted outcomes. Such an image is inappropriate for OECD countries let alone the developing world...'
But it is often possible to discern a number of separate key stages. Advice on each of them can be found by following these links:
- Identifying a problem, issue or opportunity, and then researching and gaining knowledge and experience of it,
- Consultation, including impact assessment and identifying unwanted consequences,
- Analysing and Exploring Options,
- Designing Policies that will Work
- Presentation - 'Selling' your Policies
- (in government) Navigating Whitehall, and Gaining Collective Ministerial agreement.
It is important to realise that the above six individual stages do not operate sequentially, but overlap as policies become firmed up. The IfG's Catherine Haddon notes that 'Policy-making is not a linear process. It involves extremely complex interactions between influencers, decision-makes, and implementers of policy'.
I sometimes liken policy development to a game of snakes and ladders in which occasional rapid process up the policy ladder is too often followed by rapid descent down the snake of an unintended consequence. But you will never get to your goal unless you have a clear strategy - so it is vital that you consciously tackle each of the above key stages.
This site's homepage lists several reports, checklists and sets of questions which contain much valuable and more detailed advice.
And civil servants may need to consider these issues, for which advice will be found by following these links. (The first two are to the Understanding the Civil Service website.)
- Navigating Whitehall and Gaining Collective Agreement
- Responding to Lobby Groups and Lobbyists, and
- The Transposition and Gold-Plating of European Directives.