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Policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent, and is implemented as a procedure or protocol. Policies are generally adopted by a governance body within an organization. Policies can assist in both subjective and objective decision making. Policies used in subjective decision making usually assist senior management with decisions that must be based on the relative merits of a number of factors, and as a result are often hard to test objectively, e.g. work–life balance policy. In contrast, policies to assist in objective decision making are usually operational in nature and can be objectively tested, e.g. password policy.
The term may apply to government, public sector organizations and groups, as well as individuals, Presidential executive orders, corporate privacy policies, and parliamentary rules of order are all examples of policy. Policy differs from rules or law. While law can compel or prohibit behaviors (e.g. a law requiring the payment of taxes on income), policy merely guides actions toward those that are most likely to achieve a desired outcome.
Policy or policy study may also refer to the process of making important organizational decisions, including the identification of different alternatives such as programs or spending priorities, and choosing among them on the basis of the impact they will have. Policies can be understood as political, managerial, financial, and administrative mechanisms arranged to reach explicit goals. In public corporate finance, a critical accounting policy is a policy for a firm/company or an industry that is considered to have a notably high subjective element, and that has a material impact on the financial statements.[ citation needed ]
The intended effects of a policy vary widely according to the organization and the context in which they are made. Broadly, policies are typically instituted to avoid some negative effect that has been noticed in the organization, or to seek some positive benefit. [ citation needed ]
Corporate purchasing policies provide an example of how organizations attempt to avoid negative effects. Many large companies have policies that all purchases above a certain value must be performed through a purchasing process. By requiring this standard purchasing process through policy, the organization can limit waste and standardize the way purchasing is done. [ citation needed ]
The State of California provides an example of benefit-seeking policy. In recent years, the numbers of hybrid cars in California has increased dramatically, in part because of policy changes in Federal law that provided USD $1,500 in tax credits (since phased out) as well as the use of high-occupancy vehicle lanes to hybrid owners (no loew hybrid vehicles). In this case, the organization (state and/or federal government) created an effect (increased ownership and use of hybrid vehicles) through policy (tax breaks, highway lanes). [ citation needed ]
Policies frequently have side effects or unintended consequences. Because the environments that policies seek to influence or manipulate are typically complex adaptive systems (e.g. governments, societies, large companies), making a policy change can have counterintuitive results. For example, a government may make a policy decision to raise taxes, in hopes of increasing overall tax revenue. Depending on the size of the tax increase, this may have the overall effect of reducing tax revenue by causing capital flight or by creating a rate so high that citizens are deterred from earning the money that is taxed. (See the Laffer curve.) [ citation needed ]
The policy formulation process theoretically includes an attempt to assess as many areas of potential policy impact as possible, to lessen the chances that a given policy will have unexpected or unintended consequences.
In political science, the policy cycle is a tool used for analyzing the development of a policy item. It can also be referred to as a "stagist approach", "stages heuristic" or "stages approach". It is thus a rule of thumb rather than the actual reality of how policy is created, but has been influential in how political scientists looked at policy in general.It was developed as a theory from Harold Lasswell's work.
Harold Lasswell's popular model of the policy cycle divided the process into seven distinct stages, asking questions of both how and why public policies should be made.With the stages ranging from (1) intelligence, (2) promotion, (3) prescription, (4) invocation, (5) application, (6) termination and (7) appraisal, this process inherently attempts to combine policy implementation to formulated policy goals.
One version by James E. Anderson, in his Public Policy-Making (1974) has the following stages:
An eight step policy cycle is developed in detail in The Australian Policy Handbook by Peter Bridgman and Glyn Davis: (now with Catherine Althaus in its 4th and 5th editions)
The Althaus, Bridgman & Davis model is heuristic and iterative. It is [ clarification needed ] and not meant to be [ clarification needed ] or predictive. Policy cycles are typically characterized as adopting a classical approach, and tend to describe processes from the perspective of policy decision makers. Accordingly, some postpositivist academics challenge cyclical models as unresponsive and unrealistic, preferring systemic and more complex models. They consider a broader range of actors involved in the policy space that includes civil society organisations, the media, intellectuals, think tanks or policy research institutes, corporations, lobbyists, etc.
Policies are typically promulgated through official written documents. Policy documents often come with the endorsement or signature of the executive powers within an organization to legitimize the policy and demonstrate that it is considered in force. Such documents often have standard formats that are particular to the organization issuing the policy. While such formats differ in form, policy documents usually contain certain standard components including:[ citation needed ]
Some policies may contain additional sections, including:
The American political scientist Theodore J. Lowi proposed four types of policy, namely distributive, redistributive, regulatory and constituent in his article "Four Systems of Policy, Politics and Choice" and in "American Business, Public Policy, Case Studies and Political Theory". Policy addresses the intent of the organization, whether government, business, professional, or voluntary. Policy is intended to affect the "real" world, by guiding the decisions that are made. Whether they are formally written or not, most organizations have identified policies.
Policies may be classified in many different ways. The following is a sample of several different types of policies broken down by their effect on members of the organization.
Distributive policies extend goods and services to members of an organization, as well as distributing the costs of the goods/services amongst the members of the organization. Examples include government policies that impact spending for welfare, public education, highways, and public safety, or a professional organization's benefits plan.
Regulatory policies, or mandates, limit the discretion of individuals and agencies, or otherwise compel certain types of behavior. These policies are generally thought to be best applied when good behavior can be easily defined and bad behavior can be easily regulated and punished through fines or sanctions. An example of a fairly successful public regulatory policy is that of a highway speed limit.
Constituent policies create executive power entities, or deal with laws. Constituent policies also deal with fiscal policy in some circumstances.
Policies are dynamic; they are not just static lists of goals or laws. Policy blueprints have to be implemented, often with unexpected results. Social policies are what happens 'on the ground' when they are implemented, as well as what happens at the decision making or legislative stage.
When the term policy is used, it may also refer to:
The actions the organization actually takes may often vary significantly from stated policy. This difference is sometimes caused by political compromise over policy, while in other situations it is caused by lack of policy implementation and enforcement. Implementing policy may have unexpected results, stemming from a policy whose reach extends further than the problem it was originally crafted to address. Additionally, unpredictable results may arise from selective or idiosyncratic enforcement of policy.
Types of policy analysis include:
These qualifiers can be combined, so one could, for example, have a stationary-memoryless-index policy.
Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and associated constitutions and laws.
Public policy is a course of action created and/or enacted, typically by a government, in response to public, real-world problems. Beyond this broad definition, public policy has been conceptualized in a variety of ways.
Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. Advocacy includes activities and publications to influence public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, their relationships, the media, and messaging to educate government officials and the public. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research. Lobbying is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on a specific issue or specific piece of legislation. Research has started to address how advocacy groups in the United States and Canada are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.
Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in other social contexts, is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability.
Development communication refers to the use of communication to facilitate social development. Development communication engages stakeholders and policy makers, establishes conducive environments, assesses risks and opportunities and promotes information exchange to create positive social change via sustainable development. Development communication techniques include information dissemination and education, behavior change, social marketing, social mobilization, media advocacy, communication for social change, and community participation.
Public administration is the implementation of government policy and also an academic discipline that studies this implementation and prepares civil employees for working in the public service. As a "field of inquiry with a diverse scope" whose fundamental goal is to "advance management and policies so that government can function." Some of the various definitions which have been offered for the term are: "the management of public programs"; the "translation of politics into the reality that citizens see every day"; and "the study of government decision making, the analysis of the policies themselves, the various inputs that have produced them, and the inputs necessary to produce alternative policies." The word public administration is the combination of two words—public and administration. In every sphere of social, economic and political life there is administration which means that for the proper functioning of the organisation or institution it must be properly ruled or managed and from this concept emerges the idea of administration.
E-democracy, also known as digital democracy or Internet democracy, is the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in political and governance processes. The term is believed to have been coined by digital activist Steven Clift. E-democracy incorporates 21st-century information and communications technology to promote democracy; such technologies include civic technology and government technology. It is a form of government in which all adult citizens are presumed to be eligible to participate equally in the proposal, development and creation of laws.
Policy analysis is a technique used in public administration to enable civil servants, activists, and others to examine and evaluate the available options to implement the goals of laws and elected officials. The process is also used in the administration of large organizations with complex policies. It has been defined as the process of "determining which of various policies will achieve a given set of goals in light of the relations between the policies and the goals."
Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a state, by a market, or by a network – over a social system and whether through the laws, norms, power or language of an organized society. It relates to "the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions". In lay terms, it could be described as the political processes that exist in and between formal institutions.
Environmental policy is the commitment of an organization or government to the laws, regulations, and other policy mechanisms concerning environmental issues. These issues generally include air and water pollution, waste management, ecosystem management, maintenance of biodiversity, the management of natural resources, wildlife and endangered species. For example, concerning environmental policy, the implementation of an eco-energy-oriented policy at a global level to address the issues of global warming and climate changes could be addressed. Policies concerning energy or regulation of toxic substances including pesticides and many types of industrial waste are part of the topic of environmental policy. This policy can be deliberately taken to influence human activities and thereby prevent undesirable effects on the biophysical environment and natural resources, as well as to make sure that changes in the environment do not have unacceptable effects on humans.
Gender mainstreaming is the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for people of different genders of any planned policy action, including legislation and programmes, in all areas and levels. Mainstreaming essentially offers a pluralistic approach that values the diversity among people of different genders.
Public participation, also known as citizen participation, is the inclusion of the public in the activities of any organization or project. Public participation is similar to but more inclusive than stakeholder engagement.
Street-level bureaucracy is the subset of a public agency or government institution where the civil servants work who have direct contact with members of the general public. Street-level civil servants carry out and/or enforce the actions required by a government's laws and public policies, in areas ranging from safety and security to education and social services. A few examples include police officers, border guards, social workers and public school teachers. These civil servants have direct contact with members of the general public, in contrast with civil servants who do policy analysis or economic analysis, who do not meet the public. Street-level bureaucrats act as liaisons between government policy-makers and citizens and these civil servants implement policy decisions made by senior officials in the public service and/or by elected officials.
Public engagement is a term that has recently been used, particularly in the UK, to describe "the involvement of specialists listening to, developing their understanding of, and interacting with, non-specialists".
Policy studies is a subdisicipline of political science that includes the analysis of the process of policymaking and the contents of policy. Policy analysis includes substantive area research, program evaluation and impact studies, and policy design. It "involves systematically studying the nature, causes, and effects of alternative public policies, with particular emphasis on determining the policies that will achieve given goals." It emerged in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.
Market environment and business environment are marketing terms that refer to factors and forces that affect a firm's ability to build and maintain successful customer relationships. The business environment has been defined as "the totality of physical and social factors that are taken directly into consideration in the decision-making behaviour of individuals in the organisation."
Political feasibility analysis is used to predict the probable outcome of a proposed solution to a policy problem through examining the actors, events and environment involved in all stages of the policy-making process. It is a frequently used component of a policy analysis and can serve as an evaluative criterion in choosing between policy alternatives.
Bureaucratic drift in American political science is a theory that seeks to explain the tendency for bureaucratic agencies to create policy that deviates from the original mandate. The difference between a bureaucracy's enactment of a law and the legislature's intent is called bureaucratic drift. Legislation is produced by elected officials, but is implemented by unelected bureaucrats, who sometimes act under their own preferences or interests. Bureaucratic drift is often treated as a principal–agent problem, with the House, Senate and Presidency acting as principals and bureaucracy acting as the agent. The government seeks to control bureaucratic drift in a number of ways, most notably congressional oversight and procedural controls.
Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society toward a perceived greater good. Forms of activism range from mandate building in the community, petitioning elected officials, running or contributing to a political campaign, preferential patronage of businesses, and demonstrative forms of activism like rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, or hunger strikes.
Policy entrepreneur refers to an individual who takes advantage of opportunities to influence policy outcomes to increase their self-interests. The term was first coined by American political scientist John W. Kingdon in his influential work Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies published in 1984. Kingdon created the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) which outlines that the policy process can be situated into problems, policy and politics. Political entrepreneurs are most active in the policy stream, creating solutions to potential problems and bringing them forth to the agenda setting process. The Multiple Streams Framework is a powerful tool to understand policy making and agenda setting. It was first created to analyze and understand agenda setting in the United States. Policy entrepreneurs are the most important actors in the Multiple Streams Framework, as they develop policy alternatives and couple them with problems to present solutions to policy makers at the right time. He himself describes them as "advocates who are willing to invest their resources - time, energy, reputation, money - to promote a position in return for anticipated future gain in the form of material, purposive or solidary benefits" Policy entrepreneurs use innovative ideas and non-traditional strategies to influence society, create opportunities, and promote desired policy outcomes. Policy entrepreneurship usually happens over three phases. It starts with a demand in the political landscape for some form of innovation involving a public good. Secondly, an innovative policy instrument is proposed to supply that demand. Lastly, strategies are used such as team building, problem definition, and leadership by example to make certain that the innovation is placed on the agenda. Unlike a public intellect who strives to assert themselves into many different topics and be publicly vocal, a policy entrepreneur will focus on specific topics and possibly work behind the scenes with state and political elite.
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