Policy Analysis in Six easy steps.

Policy Analysis is:

“The process through which we identify and evaluate alternative policies or programs that are intended to lessen or resolve social, economic, or physical problems.” – Carl V. Patton (Proses mengidentifikasi dan mengevaluasi alternatif kebijakan atau program untuk memecahkan permasalahan sosial, ekonomi atau fisik)

Based on the ideas and approach followed by Carl V. Patton there exists a very simple pattern of ideas and points to be considered in doing an actual policy analysis. The six steps are as follows:

1. Verify, define, and detail the problem. The most relevant and important of them all because many times the objectives are not clear or even contradictory from each other. A successful policy analysis will have allocated and identified clearly the problem to be resolved in the following steps. This is the foundation for an efficient and effective outcome of the whole process. The analyst must question both the interested parties involved as well as their agendas of the outcome. Locating the problem in such a way that eliminates any ambiguity for future references.

2. Establish evaluation criteria. In order to compare, measure and select among alternatives, relevant evaluation criteria must be established. In this step it must be considered cost, net benefit, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, administrative ease, legality, and political acceptability. Economic benefits must be considered in evaluating the policy. How the policy will harm or benefit a particular group or groups will depend on the number of option viable Options more difficult than others must be considered but ultimately decided through analyzing the parties involved with policy. Political and other variables go hand in hand with the evaluation criteria to be followed. Most of the time the client, or person or group, interested in the policy analysis will dictate the direction or evaluation criteria to follow.

3. Identify alternative policies. In order to reach this third step the other two must have been successfully reached and completed. As it can be seen, the policy analysis involves an incrementalist approach; reaching one step in order to go on to the next. In this third step understanding what is sought is very important. In order to generate alternatives, it becomes important to have a clear understanding of the problem and how to go about it. Possible alternatives include the “do nothing approach” (status quo), and any other that can benefit the outcome. Combining alternatives generates better solutions not thought of before. Relying on past experiences from other groups or policy analysis helps to create a more thorough analysis and understanding. It is important to avoid settling prematurely on a certain number of options in this step; many options must be considered before settling into a reduced number of alternatives. Brainstorming, research, experiments, writing scenarios, or concept mapping greatly help in finding new alternatives that will help reach an “optimal” solution.

4. Evaluate alternative policies. Packaging of alternatives into strategies is the next step in accomplishing a thorough policy analysis. It becomes necessary to evaluate how each possible alternative benefits the criteria previously established. Additional data needs to be collected in analyzing the different levels of influence: the economical, political and social dimensions of the problem. These dimensions are analyzed through quantitative and qualitative analysis, that is the benefits and costs per alternative. Political questions in attaining the goals are analyzed as to see whether they satisfy the interested parties of the policy analysis. In doing this more concise analysis the problem may not exist as originally identified; the actual problem statement from the first step may suffer a transformation, which is explained after evaluating the alternatives in greater detail. New aspects of the problem may be found to be transient and even different from the original problem statement. This modification process allows this method of policy analysis to allow for a “recycling” of information in all the steps. Several fast interactions through the policy analysis may well be more efficient and effective than a single detailed one. What this means is that the efficiency is greatly increased when several projects are analyzed and evaluated rather than just one in great detail, allowing for a wider scope of possible solutions. Patton further suggests to avoid the tool box approach: attacking options with a favorite analysis method; its important to have a heterogeneous approach in analyzing the different possible alternatives. It becomes inefficient to view each alternative under a single perspective; its clearly relevant the need to evaluate each alternative following diverse evaluating approaches singled out according to the uniqueness of each of them.

5. Display and distinguish among alternative policies. The results of the evaluation of possible alternatives list the degree to which criteria are met in each of them. Numerical results don’t speak for themselves but are of great help in reaching a satisfying solution in the decision. Comparison schemes used to summarize virtues are of great help in distinguishing among several options; scenarios with quantitative methods, qualitative analysis, and complex political considerations can be melded into general alternatives containing many more from the original ones. In making the comparison and distinction of each alternative it is necessary to play out the economic, political, legal, and administrative ramification of each option. Political analysis is a major factor of decision of distinction among the choices; display the positive effects and negative effects interested in implementing the policy. This political approach will ultimately analyze how the number of participants will improve or diminish the implementation. It will also criticize on how the internal cooperation of the interested units or parties will play an important role in the outcome of the policy analysis. Mixing two or more alternatives is a very common and practiced approach in attaining a very reasonably justified policy analysis.

6. Monitoring the implemented policy. Assure continuity, determine whether they are having impact. “Even after a policy has been implemented, there may be some doubt whether the problem was resolved appropriately and even whether the selected policy is being implemented properly. This concerns require that policies and programs be maintained and monitored during implementation to assure that they do not change for unintentionally, to measure the impact that they are having, to determine whether they are having the impact intended, and to decide whether they should be continued, modified or terminated.”

Mainly, we are talking about internal validity; whether our programs makes a difference, if there is no other alternate explanations. This step is very important because of the special characteristic that program evaluation and research design presents in this particular step. William Trochim presents a very complete explanation of this concept. His Home Page will be of great help in this matter.

source: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/tutorial/Barrien/barrien.htm