Virtually all countries in the world have rules and guidelines that determine how people interact and how problems should be solved or addressed. The task of formulating these policies may not be easy as such. By the time proposals are enacted into formal policies that can be mutually binding, they must undergo rigorous processes.
This implies that public policy is the outcome of interactions and dynamics among different actors, interest groups, private and public institutions, as well as processes. In the United States of America, the formulation of policy agenda, the enactment of the public policies by the Congress and the President, the implementation and interpretation of the policies by the bureaucracy and the courts involve well defined stages of development (Schmidt, Shelly & Crain, 2009). The process of public policy formation in the American system of government has been explained by the use of well designed models known as, policymaking models. We shall, however, focus on one of the most general model that illustrates the process of public policy formation. The major components in this model include; the problem advocates, the opponents, the authorities, implementation, and lastly, evaluation (Cockrel, 2004).
The first stage is the identification of the problem that needs to be addressed by the policy. This is done by specific institutions or activists who are generally termed as advocates. They are also responsible for raising awareness among the members of the public about the problem at hand.
This is done with an aim of bringing more interested people on board. Once a considerable number of the members of the public have been convinced of the need to address the problem, the next phase involves the formulation of proposal for tackling the issue. The advocates will then identify the appropriate authorities to be served with the proposal. By the time the advocates have reached the proposal presentation phase, they seek to expand the support for the proposal, and to reduce opposition.
In this model, the role of the opposition forces is recognized because they greatly influence the public policy formation process. Opposition has been noted to arise at any stage of policy formation process and parallel that of advocates. The sequence is quite similar since there is; the emergence of opposition, formulation of counterproposal, identification of authorities, presentation of the counterproposals, expansion of the opposition forces, and finally the presentation of the proposal to authorities. The final stages in the public policymaking process consist of three sub-stages; authoritative decision, implementation, and evaluation (Cockrel, 2004). The relevant government authorities that receive the proposal that outlines the public problem and how it can be addressed deliberate and issue a final decision. The possible outcomes from the authorities may include; the adoption of the advocates’ proposal or the opponents’ counterproposal, or a compromise; or the authorities can even refuse to act and hence preserving the status quo. When the decision has been reached by the authorities, it is supposed to be implemented by the concerned government entities. It may lead to a completely new way of doing things as well as the development of new enforcement procedures.
The last section is the evaluation of the implemented policy by the advocates, opponents, or other interested parties in order to find out its effectiveness or ineffectiveness. Evaluation can be done through either formal means like data collection and analysis or informal means like subjective citizen reaction (Schmidt et al., 2009). The outcome of evaluation is used to gage the general performance of the new policy.
Cockrel, J. (2004).
Public Policymaking in America. University of Kentucky Press Schmidt, S. W., Shelly, M. C. & Crain, E.
(2009). American Government and Politics: a focus on public policy formation. Cengage Learning