What is Public Policy?

Public Policy making can be characterized as a dynamic, complex, and interactive system through which public problems are identified and countered by creating new public policy or by reforming existing public policy.

Public problems can originate in endless ways and require different policy responses (such as regulations, subsidies, quotas, and laws) on the local, national, or international level.

Public Policy making is a continuous process that has many feedback loops. Verification and evaluation are essential to the functioning of this system.

Nature of Public Problems

The Public Problems that influence public policy making can be of Economic, Social, or Political nature. Each system is influenced by different public problem and thus requires different public policy.

In Public Policy making numerous individuals and interest groups compete and collaborate to influence policy makers to act in a particular way.

The large set of actors in the Public Policy process, such as politicians, civil servants, lobbyists advance their aims, including advocating their positions publicly, attempting to educate supporters and opponents, and mobilizing allies on a particular issue. Many actors can be important in the public policy process, however, government officials ultimately choose the ‘Public Policy’, in response to the public issue or problem at hand. In doing so, government officials are expected to meet public sector ethics and take the needs of all stakeholders into account.

Present State of Public Policy Making Process

Since societies have changed in the past decades the public policy making system changed too. Today, Public Policy making is increasingly goal-oriented, aiming for measurable results and goals, and decision-centric, focussing on decisions that must be taken immediately.

Furthermore, Mass communications and Technological changes have caused the public policy system to become more complex and interconnected. These changes pose new challenges to the current public policy systems and pressure them to evolve in order to remain effective and efficient.

As an Academic Discipline

As an academic discipline, Public Policy brings in elements of many social science fields and concepts, including economics, sociology, political economy, program evaluation, policy analysis, and public management, all as applied to problems of governmental administration, management, and operations. At the same time, the study of public policy is distinct from political science or economics, in its focus on the application of theory to practice.

While the majority of public policy degrees are master’s and doctoral degrees, several universities also offer undergraduate education in public policy.

List of Policy Schools across the World

The following Policy schools tackle policy analysis differently;

  • The Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago has a more ‘Quantitative’ and ‘Economics Approach’ to policy.
  • The Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon uses ‘Computational’ and ‘Empirical Methods’.
  • The John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has a more Political science and leadership based approach.
  • The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs provides traditional public policy training with multidisciplinary concentrations available in the environmental sciences and non profit management.
  • Moreover, the University of Illinois at Chicago offers public policy training that emphasizes the stages of decision-making in formulating policy (e.g. agenda setting), as well as the importance of framing effects and cognitive limits in policy formation.
  • National Law School, Bangalore launched MPP programme in 2014 with some of the top faculty of India, with a special thrust on law as an interface between development and public policy.
  • The Post Graduate Programme in Public Policy and Management course offered by Indian Institutes of Management is a multidisciplinary course with special emphasis on selected policy areas such as health policy, environment policy and developed on Economic and Quantitative approach.
  • The Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad and Mohali has launched an executive master’s level “Management Programme in Public Policy (MPPP)” in consultation with one of the world’s leading public policy schools – The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, School of International Relations and Politics, Mahatma Gandhi University was the first to start Masters in Public Policy and Governance which is interdisciplinary in nature.
  • The Jindal School of Government and Public Policy in India offers an interdisciplinary training in public policy with a focus on the policy making processes in developing and BRIC countries.
  • The Takshashila -Institution in India offers a semester-long graduate certificate in public policy instead, focusing on developing public policy as an academic discipline in India, as well as making public policy education accessible to working professionals.
  • In Europe, the LUISS School of Government offers a multidisciplinary approach to public policy combining economics, political science, new public management, and policy analysis, while the French Institute of Political Studies Sciences complements these core disciplines with organizational sociology, human security, political economy, and leadership.

Changing Landscape of Policy Making

Traditionally, the academic field of public policy focused on domestic policies. However, the wave of economic globalization which occurred in the late 20th and early 21st centuries created a need for a subset of public policy that focuses on global governance, especially as it relates to issues that transcend national borders such as climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and economic development.

Consequently, many traditional public policy schools had to tweak their durricula to adjust to this new policy landscape, as well as developed whole new ones.

The School of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University, for example, was created as a response to a new transnational landscape. The School of International Affairs is grounded on international, policy making, offering interdisciplinary training from various fields, such as law, political science, international relations, geography, sociology, and economics.

Characteristics of Public Policy

A good public policy is one that solves problems without creating a political rift. Wherever it is believed that it can solve a problem without one party disagreeing with its inception, it can go forward without issue. This policy should solve a public Problem without violating the legal boundaries set down by federal, state, and local laws. It must encourage an active citizenry furthermore, as Well as the democratic process.

There must be eight qualities of public policy, which are as follows:

  1. Coercive
  2. Regulatory
  3. Universal
  4. Legal/legitimate
  5. Distributive
  6. Organized
  7. Systematic
  8. Interdependent

Important Characteristics of Good Public Policy

  • There is linkage to organization direction.
  • Due process in the development stage has been observed.
  • Public interest has been given a high priority.
  • Organisational expectations have been met.
  • The policy is likely to be both efficient and effective.
  • Outcomes are stated in measurable terms.
  • There is a capacity to evaluate outcomes.
  • It has been appropriately funded and resource.
  • There is clear accountability.
  • It follows all appropriate laws.
  • It is enforceable.
  • It is historically informed.
  • Ideas have been tested prior to implementation.
  • The policy outcomes are clearly stated.

Policy must have a clear purpose and outcome if it is to be of any value to the organisation. It is important that staff recognise the problem that is being addressed through the policy implementation.

It is extremely difficult to implement policy in a situation where people do not perceive there is a need for the specific policy unit to be developed or implement.

If policy is being implemented to support an organisation in its growth and develop it is imperative that policy outcomes are clearly stated so that everyone could understands why the policy has been implemented and what the policy expectations are.

Policy makers must ensure that policies linked to the overall direction and goals of the organisation. The overall framework of the business will provide some strategic direction, and will be important in assessing the direction of the organisational policies.

Policy writers must ensure that the policy supports existing policies and procedures within the organisation. One of the tests of good policy is that it supports the organisation in achieving its goals and objectives. Often time policy through its implementation can, in fact hinder staff in achieving the organisational goals.

Policy should be seen as pillars supporting the structure of an organisation. Policy should be written in such a way that they clear obstacles to staff and enable them to better achieve their full potential.

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