Mahatma Gandhi, the father of Indian independence, once said: “A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal.” Same is true with the American public policy practice. A policy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business, or individual’. A public issue has broad interest and concern (Cockrel, 1997). Like strategies, programs, plans and similar concepts, policies provide general directives rather than detailed instructions for action.
Public policy planning requires a group decision. These groups may vary according to sectors such as education, health, youth, etc. Stake holders are not talking about individual problems; they are dealing with group problems that require a group decision. Another aspect of public policy is if it is controversial. If a person is not dealing with a controversial issue, that person is not dealing with a prblem that concerns the public. Policy issues are usually controversial and involve a lot of debates, and that is why they require a unique informational approach.
In public policy, it typically involves value judgments to arrive at solutions (Policy Formulation and Analysis, 2007). Most of the time, settling the problem through scientific analysis or come up with an answer in the laboratory, it is not a public issue. The answer will be a compromise based on value judgments by authoritative figures and experts on each sectors. And lastly, policy issues are recognized by key decision-makers as a problem. As leaders, they have the prerogative to identify and plan for problems that arises in the public (Ulrich, 2002).
Once the problems have been identified by stake holders, the final stages in the policymaking process are (1) authoritative decision, (2) implementation, and (3) evaluation (Cockrel, 1997). Once a public issue (problem) reaches the formal agenda, the relevant government authorities deliberate and then maake a final decision. Numerous outcomes are possible: the authorities can adopt the advocates’ proposal, the opponents’ counterproposal, or a compromise; or they can refuse to take action and thereby preserve the status quo. After the formal decision has been made, established (or newly created) government entities implement the decision.
A new routine may result from the decision; new regulations may be mandated; and enforcement procedures may be developed (Cockrel, 1997). After a new policy is implemented, advocates, opponents, or other “interested parties” begin to consider the consequences of the decision and its implementation. At this point, the final stage of the policymaking process has begun. Either through formal means such as data analysis or through informal means such as citizen reaction, evaluating a policy reveals its success, failure, or the need for modification. If a problem is observed in a particular policy, the “stages” begin again, just like a normal cycle.