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Introduction to the public policy process

Public policy creation involves five key stages: identifying issues, formulating policy, adopting policy, implementing policy, and assessing policy. Using a neighborhood intersection as an example, the video explains how these stages work to solve real-world problems, like making a street safer for kids.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] One idea that we're going to keep coming back to in our study of government is the notion of public policy and how public policy is actually made and what we're gonna do in this video is focus on what you could consider to be the five stages of the policy process and I'll use a very simple example to make those stages tangible. So, the first stage of the public policy process is identifying issues or agenda-setting, so agenda. Agenda-setting right over here or identifying issues. An example of that, and this is actually something that is going on near my house right now, is that there is an intersection about two blocks from my house, so let me see if I can draw this intersection. So, looks something like this and it's a two-way stop sign, so you have a stop sign right over there. You have a stop sign right over there and the problem is you have this large park in this corner right over there and there's also a school here and so in the morning there's a lot of kids and parents going on their bicycles or walking to school, but the problem is there's also a lot of parents who might be late for school and they're going in their cars and they're going quite fast down this road and it's a two-way stop and so even though there's a lot of kids that are waiting to cross right over here, and there's no crossing guard, so there's a lot of kids and parents walking right here, they have to wait and you can imagine, this is an elementary school. These cars are going by really fast. It's quite dangerous, so the agenda here is that, well, how do you make this safer and easier for families to cross the street on the way to the park? So, the example here. How to make easier to cross the street at that intersection? Now, once you determine the problem that you want solved, you do the agenda-setting, the next step is to formulate some type of a policy, so I'll call that step two, would be policy, policy formulation. So, one potential idea here is, well, why don't we just make this into a four-way stop? So we could put some paint here to make it clear that people are going to cross on all sides and we'll put two more stop signs to make this a four-way stop and so let's say that this is our current plan as we say, hey, we're making this tangible. We're going to implement a four-way stop at that intersection. Now, that's not the only solution that's possible. Maybe some type of speed bumps might be in order right over here and right over here. Maybe they implement some type of crossing guard or maybe you put one of those flashing blinking signs that tell people their speed limits so that they go slower, so there's many different ways to formulate ideas that will address this agenda, that will address these problems, but let's say that we do a study and we decide that a four-way stop is the policy that we want to pursue. Well, then the next step after that is to convince other people that this is a good idea, so step three right over here we could call policy, policy adoption. Adoption or legitimization, and in my context, it might involve going to the city council maybe with some traffic experts, some safety experts. Maybe I could go gather the community here, petition so that a lot of people in the community here agree that a four-way stop would be in order and let's say the city council and the police department and all the various stakeholders who have to buy in say, "Yes, we are going to implement a four-way stop here." And then they implement it and so once the policy is adopted, the next thing is, well, you've gotta actually implement it, so I'll call that step four. Policy, policy implementation. Implementation. Mentation, and in this case, it's pretty straightforward. Someone needs to show up and install those stop signs. Maybe they're gonna put some markers over here to make it more clear that people are going to cross the street as they go on to the park, but that would be the implementation. Now, the last step in this public policy cycle or this process, and you'll see it really is a cycle, is to just assess it, to evaluate how things are going, so the next step, we'll call this step five right over here, would be policy assessment. Assessment. Or evaluation and so one possibility is to go survey people in the community. Has that solved the problem? Has it created new problems? Is there a traffic issue now because people have to go to the four-way stop? And whatever the assessment says, the assessment might say, "Hey, everything's perfect now," and then you don't really have to worry about this problem anymore, but maybe there's a new traffic problem and now that'd be another issue to address and you would have to go through the cycle again or maybe it hasn't addressed the speed issue and so maybe you need to think about, well, how do we slow cars down or whatever else? And we would keep going through this public policy process or this, really this cycle that we're talking about. Now, the example that I just gave, this is a very simple example at a corner two blocks from my house and this is actually something I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about going to the city council about this, but as you can imagine, as we go into much deeper things that are affecting people at the federal level, healthcare, taxes, whatever else, each of these steps can be quite involved and it can even take years to do any one of these steps.