Public policies have a great impact on the social, political and economic nature of a country. This makes it necessary for the policies to be seriously evaluated, analyzed and reviewed before implementation to avoid any negative consequences. Policy evaluation has the main objective of answering all the questions put forward regarding the policy programs to be implemented (Fossati, 2002). The process of policy evaluation entails collecting all the relevant information about a particular policy and further analyzing the information to find out if the policy program in question has the potential of bringing the intended effect on the ground. Both qualitative and quantitative methods of evaluation are used in the process of analyzing public policies (Fossati, 2002). Experts from different disciplines are normally called upon to evaluate public policies to make the whole process very comprehensive and inclusive. This paper will highlight the process and methodologies used in evaluating, analyzing and revising public policies.
The process of evaluating a public policy takes place in different stages with each stage raising different questions about the policy program (Nagel, 2002). These questions have to be answered by the evaluator and the necessary changes made if the feedback is negative. The first stage in policy evaluation is the assessment of policy needs. This involves verification of the real facts on the ground to confirm whether the situation on the ground is necessary for the implementation of the policy (Nagel, 2002). The population is assessed to check whether the said need exists and requires the attention of the government. The people affected by the problem are identified and the extent of the problem established. Policy evaluators also determine the measurable effects of the problem to the affected population. This stage ensures funds are not wasted by being allocated to fictional or misconceived programs (Nagel, 2002).
The next step in policy evaluation is the assessment of the policy model to find out whether the actions can comprehensively achieve the intended objectives and goals of the policy (Fossati, 2002). In most cases, policy implementation models are normally assumed by those in charge of running the policy programs and in the process leading to poor results at the implementation stage. The authenticity and effectiveness of the implementation model is assessed to ensure effective implementation of policy programs (Fossati, 2002). The logic behind the implementation method is thoroughly explicated by policy evaluators to ensure both negative and positive consequences of the policy are known before implementation. A clear and effective logic model of policy program implementation ensures that all the stakeholders involved in the implementation of the policy play their roles effectively (Fossati, 2002).
Apart from assessing the implementation model, policy evaluation also scrutinizes the actual implementation of policy programs (Fossati, 2002). The main aim of assessing program implementation is to ensure that all the critical components of the policy program are applied according to the original plan. Evaluation of policy programs ensures that the programs reach the intended group and the staff responsible for implementing the policy programs is qualified for the job. The implementation process is evaluated continually to check the efficiency of policy programs (Fossati, 2002). Policy evaluation also entails the assessment of the policy impact on the target population. Any policy program put in place is supposed to achieve some desired outcomes for the program to be termed successful. After policy implementation, the evaluation team seeks to establish whether the policy programs are bringing the desired effects on the target population (Shapira, 2003). The evaluation team carries out the cost-benefits analysis to asses the efficiency of a program for comparison purposes.
It is possible for the desired outcomes to be realized on the ground as a result of other external processes (Shapira, 2003). This poses a great challenge to evaluators in determining whether the effects on the ground are as a result of the implemented policy program. Statistical techniques are normally used to in the process of assessing the real impact of the policy program in question. The process of determining causation is always a great challenge to evaluators because of a number of factors that complicate the process of assessing the real impact of the policy program on the ground. The self-selection bias is one of the major factors that complicate the process of determining causation (Shapira, 2003). This problem occurs when all the participants in policy formulation and implementation are self-selected.
The issue of self-selection bias can only be resolved by conducting a comprehensive impact analysis of the policy program (Nagel, 2002). Through experience, it has been proved that causation can not be determined by random assignment because the correlation between the cause and effect can not be effectively proved through random assignment of people. This leaves impact analysis as the only option of determining the actual cause of the impact being reflected on the ground. In case enough data has been collected, statistical methods of impact analysis can be used to determine causation (Nagel, 2002). Determination of causation helps in establishing the viability of a policy program for the intended purpose.
The instruments used in policy evaluation should be very accurate for reliable results to be obtained (Nagel, 2002). To ensure credible results are obtained, statistical techniques are used to assess the accuracy of the methods used in impact analysis of the policy program in question. Some of these statistical techniques include reliability, sensitivity and validity. Reliability seeks to determine whether the measurement instrument produces the same results after being used several times to measure the impact of the same policy program. The ability of a measuring instrument to measure what is intended to measure is determined using the validity technique. The validity of a measuring instrument in many policy programs is determined by program administrators and sponsors who ignore the use of statistical techniques to determine the validity of the measuring instrument (Nagel, 2002). The sensitivity of a measuring instrument is very important because of the fact that some changes can occur in process of measuring the impact of the program. This might occur as a result of a change in application which might affect the final effect of the program.
The relationship between the policies put in place with the desired outcomes is normally determined by policy analysis (Shapira, 2003). Policy analysis is supposed to give an explanation of the policies in place and clearly describe the development of those policies. Both descriptive and analytical methods are used in the process of policy analysis for all the details regarding the policies to be clearly determined. The type of analysis is dependent on the purpose of conducting the analysis. There are three main approaches to conducting an effective policy analysis whether in the public sector or the private sector (Shapira, 2003). The first approach is the analycentric approach that seeks to analyze an individual problem with an aim of coming up with the most efficient solution. The solution obtained by the analycentric approach should reflect economic and technical efficiency.
The second approach to policy analysis is the policy process that seeks to find a political interpretation and solution to the problems that might exist due to power and representation (Fossati, 2002). The meta-policy approach seeks to explain all the contextual factors within a public policy and solves all the problems resulting from structural factors. Policies are normally influenced by economic, political and social factors that need to be well explained and interpreted for the success of the policy program. There are quite a number of methodologies used to analyze public policies for viability. Some of the commonly used methods include the model building method, case study method, statistical analysis and the survey research method (Fossati, 2002). The process of creating and applying a public policy is normally used using analytical models such as the rational and institutional models. Policy analysis is useful when selecting the best policy agenda from many alternatives.
Public policies need to undergo revision before implementation to avoid the many complications that might arise at the implementation (Nagel, 2002). The other reason why policy revision is recommended is to restructure outdated policies and make them consistent with the current economic, social and political trends. The process of policy revision can be carried out through editing the existing policies according to current requirements or developing new policies incase the existing ones are completely outdated. Policy makers have the responsibility of identifying the policies that need revision and present them for revision (Nagel, 2002). All the stakeholders are called upon to give their input on the areas that need revision before the policy agenda is sent to the Congress for amendment, discussion and adoption. The other option is to formulate new policies addressing the same problem but using a different approach. The new policy draft is then sent to the congress for discussion and legislation using the normal policy legislation procedure (Nagel, 2002). In case of policy editing, all the suggested changes that are meant to improve the efficiency of a policy program should be included in the final draft before being sent to the Congress for debate and adoption (Shapira, 2003). Constant policy revision by the government ensures that funds are not wasted on outdated government policy programs with no real positive impact. Statistical methodologies are normally used to identify and review public policies that need revision.
In conclusion, policy evaluation and revision is essential in ensuring all government programs attain the desired results. Policy evaluation and analysis seeks to find out all the answers to the questions that might be asked regarding the policy programs being developed and implemented. Policy evaluators assess the viability and efficiency of a policy program using analytical and descriptive statistical methods. It is important for all public policies to be reviewed to make sure that they are consistent with current social, political and economic trends in the country and the whole world at large.
Fossati, A. (2002). Policy evaluation with computable general equilibrium models. New York, NY: Routledge.
Nagel, S. S. (2002). Handbook of public policy evaluation. New York, NY: SAGE.
Shapira, P. (2003). Learning from science and technology policy evaluation: Experiences from the United States and Europe. New York, NY: Edward Elgar Publishing.