Government Policy Process and How It Affects Our Daily Lives

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Written by  William A.Twayigize

What is a government policy

According to The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), a policy is a statement of beliefs, goals, objectives, and recommendations on a specific subject area. A good example for this statement would be “Natural Resources Management Policy. This means that the beliefs, goals, objectives, and recommendations of this policy should be specifically addressing the issues regarding natural resources management. Such policy statement should advocate for the effectiveness and sustainability of natural resources management.  Once this policy is approved it gives the government or other entities such as civil society to implement this policy. When there is a policy it provides the government and the public guidance to follow in order to bring a desired change in the society.
Policy gives an institution or organization a platform and framework to guide both internal and external strategies to effectively achieve its mission and vision.
According to Deleon, P. (1999), policy has a cycle, which is a tool used to analyze three stages of policy development. This cycle can also be referred to as a "stagist approach" or heuristic stages”. This means how policy is created. This theory was developed by Harold Lasswell (Carlsson, L. (2000).

What are the stages of policy process?

  1. First the government policy-makers have to set the agenda. This stage is referred to as “Agenda setting” or problem identification stage that allows policy researchers, civil society, or politicians identify problems in the society and bring them forward as a  subject or a problem requiring further government or institution’s attention.
  2. Then once this problem is recognized policy-makers sit down to form a policy. This stage is known as “Policy Formulation stage.” It involves an intense discussion and debates that explore different aspects, looking at options or alternative courses of action to take to solve the found problem. During this stage academicians, professionals, experts dialogue, appraise, and formulate in order to amalgamate the policy.  After this process then it goes to making decision.
  3. At this point the government decides on final decision in order to take action. This is referred to as “decision making stage.” This action might be required to perpetuate the present policy do some changes. Depending on the side one stands from, a decision might either be positive or negative or sometimes it might not require any action.
  4. Then the decision taken should be implemented so that it starts working. Remember the government might ask the people to implement the policy in perpetuity or for a certain given time. There is an ongoing policy or a time bound policy.
  5. When the policy is into practice then an action is needed to evaluate how it is being received by the public or members of a given organization. This is called “evaluation stage.”  At this process experts are called in to assess the effectiveness of a public policy. Questions are asked whether its intentions have been met or yield any results. Its success or failure determines the next course of action. By examining the policy impact and outcomes then you are able to decide whether to continue with the policy the way it was put into action or to alter few things so that the policy can be implemented with new features or look.

According to an Australian policy expert Peter Bridgman there are eight step policy cycle, which are outlined below:

  1. Issue or Problem identification
  2. Policy analysis (involves dialogue, discussion and debating)
  3. Policy instrument development
  4. Consultation (contacting all stakeholders to collect their views and input)
  5. Coordination (involving all stakeholders)
  6. Decision (taking action to put the policy into practice)
  7. Implementation (executing the decision so that it starts working)
  8. Evaluation (looking back to the policy objectives and see whether they have been met or failed and make changes or reject the whole process altogether)

The process of Policy making is an act of changing and idea into action. In another words it is a process of identifying a problem and influence those with ability to solve the problem to take action. These ‘ideas’ or problems can originate from various angles or places. Some of the common places that generate ideas for policy-making are as follows:

  1. Government
  2. Ministers/Cabinet members
  3. Politicians
  4. Councilors
  5. Civil servants
  6. Society
  7. Non-Governmental Organizations
  8. Community groups
  9. Trade unions/Workers Federations
  10. Professionals, such as doctors and academics
  11. Public opinion
  12. People like you

I must say that you can come up with your own list because there are many institutions, people, and organizations that are involved in shaping policy ideas right from your own community, to the national, and regional, and international arena.


Bridgman, P., & Davis, G. (2003). What use is a policy cycle? Plenty, if the aim is clear.

Australian Journal of Public Administration, 62(3), 98-102.

Carlsson, L. (2000). Policy networks as collective action. Policy studies journal, 28(3), 502-520.

DeLeon, P. (1999). The stages approach to the policy process: What has it done? Where is it

Going. Theories of the policy process, 1, 19-32.

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