Why Study Public Policy

Many possibly wonder about the importance of studying public policy and why it is offered as a major course. If you are observant of what’s happening around you or if you care how the world is run, then you already have a reason for studying public policy.

Transportation, education, economy, health care, jobs, housing – almost all aspects of our everyday life are linked by public policy decisions made by our government officials and other agencies responsible for certain development. Arriving at a solution to public problems is a tedious process, especially in the area concerning the people who will be making these policies and the things to consider in formulating a solution, since public issues are now becoming more complex and global. This is why rigorous analysis is being demanded in the formulation of public policy to arrive at effective solutions.

To address these issues on public policy, here are some reasons why you should consider studying this major:

  1. To be an empowered citizen, one must actively be involved in public affairs. It is our responsibility and opportunity to voice out our concerns because it is us who can be affected with everything that’s happening in the long run.
  2. As taxpayers, we have a say in every part of government spending. They may be the one making decisions and public policies, but we can do our share by knowing and studying our responsibilities as citizens and as taxpayers who are always in need of effective public services.
  3. Knowing more about policy analysis helps us to create solutions to more common problems that we, citizens, are experiencing. Especially if it’s being brought to the government’s attention, it would really be beneficial if we know how public policy works so we can easily deal with certain issues, especially if it involves us or any of our advocacies.
  4. Public policy analysis can become a professional job for students who are taught in the fields of political science, law, economics, business, environmental studies, and other disciplines related to the government, politics, and the world around us. Since these fields are linked to the government, it has a direct stake in the quality and nature of public policy. Public policy analysts do really have a vast knowledge on the means on how policy is made, the forces that affect it, and the ways on how policy can get better and become more effective to the public concerning the issue.
  5. Public policy also focuses on teaching how to build characters well and how to become effective citizens.

What Are the Stages Involved in Public Policy Development?

When the government is attempting to solve a public issue by implementing laws, regulations, or decisions that are relevant to the issue, this action is called public policy. There are many kinds of issues that can be covered under public policy, including crime, health education, and social welfare. In order to develop these public policies, there’s a continuous and organized process that many people should follow. This public policy development is made possible through these six stages:

  1. Problem identification – it’s a stage when the public senses dissatisfaction with an existing policy. Such issue can be brought up by a concerned group of people or even the mass media.
  2. Agenda setting – prior to formulating and adopting a specific policy, it needs to be included as an agenda. Individuals involved in agenda setting would be think tanks, interest groups, mass media, and officials in the government.
  3. Policy making – in this particular stage, the policies that were already identified and added as an agenda can be used to solve existing issues. Formulating these policies can be done by Congress and is approved by the executive branch.
  4. Budgeting – annually, it’s the responsibility of Congress to plan how much money is to be used on every policy. However, before a certain policy is included for the yearly budget, it needs to be adopted and approved first.
  5. Implementation – the executive branch has a crucial role in implementing this policy. The process of implementing such policy includes the adoption of rules and regulations, inclusion of services and products, making of campaigns to educate the public, and settlement of disputes.
  6. Evaluation – it is important to make sure that these policies really do help in solving the existing issues and that they did accomplish the government’s goals. The evaluation process may cover checking the costs versus the benefits of policies and their effects on the public. This process involves the function of Congress to prompt agencies to evaluate the result of these public policies. Not only that, this stage also helps identify other problems as it paves way for another public policy to be created. This makes public policy development an organized and continuous process.

The Scope of Public Policy Major

Students from all around the globe, especially those who graduated high school, may have experienced being baffled about what the best course or major is to take when going to college. Of course, there are a lot of choices depending on your preference and the university or college that you have in mind. But one major course that would probably interest you, especially if you are concerned with how things really work, especially in the side of politics and law, would be Public Policy.

What is Public Policy major all about? Public Policy major is a field in political studies that involves all other branches of learning such as social sciences, with extensive inputs from the field of sociology, economics, political science, and law, among all other disciplines. In this discipline, traditional policies and boundaries are just only a small part in the analysis of the whole situation. To improve and advance with public policies, a wide knowledge of social scientific understanding, quantitative skills, and communication expertise is needed. This major knows that being bounded by the traditional way of dealing with public policies is not a solution for improvement.

The course Public Policy addresses policy problems directly and assures that all academic endeavors are related to real-world situations. Public Policy major tries hard to put critical studies first before promoting advocacy, stressing that critical analysis is the main ingredient of efficient advocacy. The program of study for public policy studies is made to initiate understanding of policy analysis and its implementation to students, prepare them to use financial and quantitative strategies and methods, teach them in policy research, and provide them a thorough training in one or more specific fields in public policy.

So for students who really have an inclination on politics and how government, laws, and public policies work, taking up Public Policy major would suit you best.

The Public Policy Cycle

The public policy cycle has six stages that may overlap each other. In every stage, there are additional mini-stages and the process never ends. Here is the public policy cycle:

  1. Problem Identification – A problem can be identified coming from an elite opinion or public opinion, they express dissatisfaction with the policy or policies that are implemented. The problem is articulated and defined by institutions and individuals like interest groups, parties and the mass media.
  2. Agenda Setting – At this stage, alternatives must be defined as they are crucial to the whole process of public policy. Prior to the formulation and adoption of a certain policy, the issue involved must compete to become part of the agenda. The agenda is the list of items that are actively considered for policy formulation and adoption. Generally, each idea passes through different levels, this includes the agenda of the broad political system, presidential and congressional agenda and bureaucratic agenda. The key factors in setting an agenda are the think tanks, media, interest groups and government officials.
  3. Policy Making – When the problems are already identified and created into different agendas, the next step is the formulation of policies so that the problems are addressed accordingly. The formulated policies must be adopted in the congressional process and will be refined in the bureaucratic process.
  4. Budgeting – Every year, the Congress should decide through the process of appropriations the amount of money that will be spent on each policy. Generally, so that there will be an allocation of funds, the policy must be authorized first.
  5. Implementation – At this stage, the bureaucracy or executive agencies implement or carry out the policy. The implementation process includes the adoption of regulations and rules, provision of products and services, adjudication of disputes, public education campaign and more.
  6. Evaluation – There are a number of people who will evaluate the policies’ impact. They will see if the problems identified were solved and accomplished with the implementation of the policy. Also, it looks at the policies’ costs and benefits including their unintended and indirect effects. Usually, this stage triggers identification of new problems and the whole cycle will start again.

These are the six stages of the public policy cycle.

The Best Books in Public Policy

Here is a review of the best books you can read about policy, leadership, and working in public services:

Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones

This book speaks about what it takes to be a good leader. It addresses hundreds of leaders in our society – from chief executives of multinational corporations to teachers and different professions. The authors of the book put emphasis on “being yourself” to become an effective leader. According to Rick Harmes – a researcher in localism and politics who recommends this book – the book treats leadership from the perspective of a follower.

Instruction to Deliver: Tony Blair, the Public Services and the Challenge of Delivery by Michael Barber

This book is inspired by Tony Blair’s experiences as head of the delivery unit from 2001 to 2005. It is written by Blair’s powerful civil servant and analyzes Blair’s triumphs, failures, and weaknesses.

What Makes an Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

This book challenges to shatter down the stereotypes enveloping leadership, disputing that effective leaders range from “extroverted to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling, from generous to parsimonious”, as Jeremy Taylor, Chief Executive of National Voices and “escapee from treasury” said. The great thing about this book is that Drucker fundamentally sets out the real practices that are vital in good leadership.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This is a self-help guide to raising your status and reputation through obsequiousness and respect for others. Based on a series of lectures by Carnegie, this book was first published in 1936, influencing many other self-help materials. This book is definitely a must-have. Many people who have read this say that it’s definitely the book that everyone should read at least once in their entire life.

Study Materials Help You Gain More Knowledge about Public Policy Studies

Public policy is the government’s action for solving a specific issue that can possibly affect public welfare. These public policies are created and implemented by local, state, federal, and international government organizations to provide protection and support to the masses. One great thing about public policy is that it showcases the common sense and common conscience of the citizens about society while it applies to matters of public health, safety, and welfare.

Meanwhile, several educational institutions have offered this as an academic discipline. The Public Policy Studies involves students in critical decision making with regard to developing effective public policies to answer concerns in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

In order to master the field of public policy, it is important to make use of a public policy study material. Aside from that, mastering this special field will require students to study a combination of discipline from political sciences, economics, statistics, law, international relations and development, public finance, ethics, public administration, and sociology. These public policy studies also aim to combine other big academic disciplines so that students may apply these concepts in addressing social issues like crime and justice, labor, education, and health care.

With all these loads of subjects under public policy, a public policy study material will surely be a great help for students. These study materials include books, magazines, journals, and newspapers, which are quite accessible in a school’s library. Be sure to spend your extra time reading these study materials so you can ace the exams in a public policy study course.

Another public policy study material that may also help is the Internet. The Internet has a wide variety of information involving public policy studies. In fact, it is teeming with websites that offer information about subjects relevant to formulating public policies.

Public policy, as an academic discipline, has evolved over the years. In the past, public policy tends to give more emphasis on domestic policies, but due to the wave of economic globalization, it speaks for the need to put more focus on global governance.

Taking a public policy course is easier said than done. In other words, it’s an academic discipline that can’t be taken lightly. It involves dedication and will if you want to succeed in the long run. For this reason, it is important for you to gain access to public policy study materials so that you are properly guided along topics.

Steps in Public Policy Making

Public policy making has to undergo certain steps in order to achieve proper solution to certain issues being raised and to ensure that it is carried out effectively for the benefit of those who are affected with the problem.

There are four main steps in the public policy process. These are as follows:

  1. recognizing the problem,
  2. making up a policy,
  3. implementing the policy change, and
  4. examining the outcome.

Knowing the Problem

The first step in the public policy process is to identify the problem or the issue and to analyze it. This step entails knowing the root cause of the problem, how it affects people, and how they are aware of that issue; deciding on who will take part in the solving process; and thinking of ways to achieve a solution.

Making Up a Policy for Resolution

This is usually achieved through dialogues and discussion by the people involved like government officials, party groups, or any citizen who is directly related to the problem. This discussion and debates should happen to identify possible hindrances to the solution being raised, to propose substitute solutions, and to set clear objectives and goals. This also involves discussing the steps on how to achieve those possible solutions being discussed.

Implementing the Policy Change

This step is typically a difficult process, especially if the implementing agency or group is not that committed to carry out the task. This happens when it also has its own agenda or ideas that aren’t considered during the policy-making step. That is why compromises and thorough discussion should be done while debating on policy making to make sure that all or the majority agrees with the solution being raised and that it is for everybody’s common good.

Harmonization and clear communication, as well as enough funding, are also great factors that play a role in the success of this step.

Examining the Outcome of the Policy Change

The final step in the public policy process, which is the evaluation of the outcome, is usually an ongoing process. This is the stage in which the outcome of the new policy being implemented has really addressed the real issues and problems concerned. It is also the step in which funds and resources are assessed to guarantee that the policy has sustainability.

Solving Public Issues with the Right Public Policy and Governance

Public policies are actions performed by the government to fix a certain issue that affects the whole society. These policies are often guided by principles and include a course of action, regulatory measures and laws, and financial priorities that concern issues being raised upon a government entity or its representatives.

These are all made and implemented by local, state, federal, and international government agencies to benefit and support the citizens. These public policies actually affect the following sectors: public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

These public rules involve critical decision making on the part of the executive branch of the government. Such decisions are also mainly directed to public health and safety and welfare of the people. For this reason, public policy and governance must go well hand in hand to bring an end to all the issues affecting the citizens.

Today, with the advent of economic globalization, public policies are putting more focus on global governance, most especially that it is relevant to worldwide issues like climate change, terrorism, nuclear arms race, and economic progress, which are currently affecting our lives right now.

Public policy and governance are a continuous process, and it is the reason why they are still well developed today in most governments. When it comes to public policy making, decision will vary among issues that are economic, social, or political in nature. Additionally, public policy makers collaborate with a group of people in order to influence the decisions they have been making.

Currently, public policy and governance are both becoming goal oriented, which means that they seek measurable results and aims. Moreover, our great progress in terms of technology has made public policy become complex and interconnected with other unique disciplines. These challenges in the current public policy system help them stand strong and develop effective and efficient decisions for the public welfare.

Roles of a Public Policy Analyst

The main reform movement for a good change in the government is based on an economic approach to decision making. In essence, the reforms needed constitute an invasion of public decision making by economics. By means of this, it provides a highly developed theoretical basis for improvement of the decision-making process. Thus, there are people for this kind of work who are tasked to provide criticisms to new-formed policies made by policy makers or policies that have issues along the way. These people are assigned to the job that is mainly to help the policy makers take difficult decisions that are controversial. We call them the policy analysts.

Policy analysts endeavor to influence political and social events, raise public awareness of issues, and shape government policies. Analysts conduct research, analyze proposed policies, and evaluate existing policies for the public good. Being an analyst requires research and writing skills. A policy analyst requires a college degree. But most of the time, it requires professional advancement, either master’s or doctoral degree.

The two most important responsibilities that a policy analyst must remember are to review government policies and to help policy makers take appropriate decisions. Other roles of policy analysts include identifying and prioritizing policy issues, their consequences, or other alternative viable instruments in preparation should plans not materialize. To give clarification on the policy objectives relevant to the livestock and its real interest is one task. Developing criteria and indicators to assess how far one is towards the set objectives is another role. Designing a viable policy package and formulating strategies to obtain political support are an important job that an analyst must do. An analyst must research the event, collecting and analyzing data. Other policy analysts are tasked to evaluate the effects of existing policies. The efficiency of the policy is then measured or evaluated based on the set goal and objective.

Senior policy makers must understand the issues involved if they are to take a sound decision. The policy analyst must be able to create and convey that level of understanding to the maker. The analyst and policy maker must work together to create a better and polished policy.

Prioritizing policy issues is necessary in utilizing limited resources effectively. Policies need to be clear and free from any ulterior motives from the policy maker. The policy should benefit all the people in the state without bringing any harm to the citizens.

Requirements Of The Public Policy Major

Generally, the public policy major requires at least 39 hours which are divided in two parts: the core courses require 24 hours, elective courses that focus on a single substantive policy area is 12 hours and the last 3 hours will be spent in the last year.

The core courses will tackle the following subject areas:

  • General – The time allocated for this area is 3 hours. It includes the subjects such as Public Policy, Introduction to Public Policy, PSCI, HOD and depending on the director’s permission, The Public Policy Politics will be accounted.
  • Research Methods – The subjects included are Systematic Inquiry, HOD, Policy Analysis Methods, Conduct of Political Research and an introduction about Social Research.
  • Statistics – In this area, the subjects include Economic Statistics, ECON, Intensive Economic Statistics, Statistics Laboratory, Statistics for Social Scientists, Introduction to the Mathematical and Probability Statistics.
  • Ethics – The subjects include Law, Justice and Politics, Public Policy and Ethics, Moral Problems, Ethics and Medicine, Ethics and Business and Ethics and Law.
  • Public Finance – It focuses about Public Finance.
  • Government – It includes subjects like Political Science and Public Policy’s Politics.
  • Economics – It deals all about Economics.
  • Society and Culture – The subject areas are Sociology and Anthropology.

Policy Tracks

This is for the elective courses that will focus on only one substantive policy area so that the students will have a deeper understanding. Each student has the freedom to design and choose his own track, of course with the guidance and approval of the director. Also, the classes must represent a minimum of two disciplines. In the early stage of the major class, the students must start to consider what will be their policy track so that they can take courses to fulfil the chosen track. Once the student completes the track, he will be eligible for graduation.

Finally, the last three hours will be spent in a seminar about Public Policy Research which is usually undertaken in the last year.

These are the required subjects and number of hours when you want to take the public policy major.