policy analysis proposal (health issue)
This is an opportunity for students to undertake preliminary thinking and research for their Policy Analysis and to receive early feedback to help complete the Policy Analysis. There are three steps to this task.
1. Choose a policy or policy area that interests you. It may be one of the topics covered in this unit, or something different. Remember, for the purposes of this unit, a policy may be a specific law, a government policy with a name, or a general government approach.
2. Choose a policy analysis method from the four covered in this unit. Think carefully about which method you choose, and some methods will be better suited to some policies.(Internal Policy Analysis, External Policy Analysis, Comparative Policy Analysis and Policy Discourse Analysis) I providing more detalis on the bottom of the page
3. Provide an annotated bibliography. This is a list of references, followed by one or two sentences explaining what this reference does and why it will be useful for your analysis. Note: the sentences explaining the usefulness of the reference is what makes an annotated bibliography different from a reference list.
The Proposal should be 500 words long. It is worth 10%.
Give your topic a title.
Clearly outline the policy that you have chosen.
You may want to identify the parameters (such as geography or time) for your analysis.
Identify a key question that will guide your analysis.
Name your method of analysis, and explain why you have chosen this method to evaluate your chosen policy.
Identify five key references on this policy area. These may be books, journal articles, policy documents, or policy analysis from a reputable source. Your references should contain both policy documents (usually found online on government websites), and more scholarly source material.
Reference these correctly using the Harvard referencing style.
In two or three sentences for each reference, explain why these references will be useful for your assignment
The Role of Policy Analysis ( the methods)
In brief, the purpose of policy is to achieve a tangible outcome in response to a problem. For this to occur information must be collected and assessed, options considered and programs implemented and evaluated. Sound information and knowledge about the policy problem, it background, and available instruments are critical. Typically, policy issues generate mountains of data and reports.
Governments invest considerable resources in programs, even in the absence of any firm knowledge of their effectiveness. The complexity of many problems is such that they cannot be fully understood and often effective solutions are beyond reach. For example, the high rate of divorce is considered by governments to be a social problem and vast amounts of research and expert opinion relating to this issue can be readily accessed. But it is difficult to conceive of effective policy in this area and it is largely unknown whether existing family programs and initiatives make a difference.
Nevertheless, public policy initiatives are always based on some (explicit or implicit) theory or set of assumptions with respect to the nature of the problem that the program is designed to address. For example, labour market measures (such as work for the dole) are premised on particular understandings of the causes of unemployment.
Politicians and stakeholders can be expected to absorb only a tiny fraction of available information. The same challenge will confront students in this unit when undertaking assignment research. Careful judgment must be exercised when sifting through the volumes of references resulting from a search of the Internet and electronic databases pertaining to almost any policy domain you can think of. In most instances obstacles to ‘good policy’ have little to do with lack of information.
Policy analysis is a crucial step in the policy cycle. Policy makers must be able to see that their policies are achieving the desired effect, so that they can justify the continuation of the program. In addition, circumstances might change to render the policy redundant, or politically problematic. New instruments might need to be introduced, and new measures might be needed to reach sections of the community not reached in the original policy implementation.
These four methods of policy analysis can be used to this end.
Four Methods of Policy Analysis:
1. Internal Policy Analysis
This is perhaps the most straight-forward of policy analysis methods, and the most commonly deployed. Put simply, an internal policy analysis measures the policy outcomes against the policy objectives. This policy analysis is particularly useful for measuring the effectiveness of a policy using statistics and other similar research. It is often conducted some time after a policy is originally introduced, as it will take time (often years) before the results become apparent.
Policy objectives: In the policy maker’s words, what does this policy aim to achieve?
There are many places we can go to for statements of policy objectives. When policies are first announced, politicians and relevant ministers often release media statements that state their policy objectives. You can find these on the politicians’ websites. Politicians’ statements in the media are an excellent source of this information. Better still, refer to the second reading of the policy in Hansard, where politicians explain and debate at length the reasons why they believe that introducing a particular policy is an important measure. You can access Hansard online through the Parliament website.
You will usually be able to come up with a list of three or more policy objectives. Identifying and gathering these objectives are an important skill in itself. Be sure that you identify and collate only stated or explicit policy objectives, not implied policy objectives. For this sort of policy analysis, you need to work with the facts of what a policy maker says they will do, not what you interpret that to mean. (The policy discourse analysis will allow you to make a more interpretive assessment).
Policy outcomes: Has the policy achieved the stated outcomes? Which outcomes have been achieved? Have they been fully or partially achieved? Which outcomes have not been achieved at all? What are the reasons?
To conduct this evaluation, match the policy outcomes against the objectives. To do this task effectively, four factors are important: (1) Use as your starting point the list of stated policy objectives; (2) Use only credible statistics from good sources; (3) Ensure that sufficient time has elapsed between the introduction of the policy and your evaluation; (4) Ensure that certain variables or externalities are taken into account.
In 1990, the Victorian government introduced a policy to reduce the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne. What are the statistics on homelessness in Melbourne in 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010? Take into account variables (increase in Melbourne’s overall population, global financial crisis, shifts in the definition of homelessness). Has the government succeeded in meeting its objectives?
2. External Policy Analysis
An external policy analysis evaluates policy and its outcomes using external measures, instruments and frameworks. There are a whole range of measures that can be utilised for an external analysis. These include, but are not limited to:
Economic measures: Is the policy cost-effective?
Environmental measures: What is the environmental impact of this policy?
Social measures: Who benefits from this policy? Who misses out? Who is negatively affected?
Human rights measures: Does this policy meet our obligations under human rights law and principles?
Democratic measures: Does this policy enhance transparency and accountability of government, or reduce it?
Today, external policy analysis is often incorporated directly into the original policy design. When we talk about a ‘triple bottom line’ applied to policies, this means that the policy is being designed with an eye to its economic, social and environmental outcomes, and all are important to the success of the policy (it is up to you to decide whether all three are given equal weighting, however).
An external method of policy analysis can be applied equally to policy objectives and policy outcomes.
In 1990, the Victorian government introduced a policy to reduce the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne. The policy involved buying new houses for every person sleeping rough. Is this a cost effective way to deal with this particular problem? It also involves separating children from their parents, and accommodating them in dormitories. Does this policy meet Australia’s obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child?
3. Comparative Policy Analysis
A comparative analysis involves comparing like policies across different jurisdictions: such as different States of Australia, or different countries. This is a valuable form of policy analysis, as it is often the case that, when faced with the same problem, different governments may design and implement vastly different solutions. Alternatively, but just as interesting, different governments may interpret the ‘problem’ in different ways: what one state may regard as a crisis, another may regard it as simply the normal task of governments.
While a State-based comparison is a relatively straightforward task, an international comparison is much more complex. The policy analyst must first establish that the two countries are comparable: that is, they have similar systems of government, similar economic situations, and similar cultural and social environments. These conditions must be explored before any useful conclusions can be made about policies.
Policymakers often look to international comparisons for policy solutions, and apply them (with adaptations) to their own jurisdiction. In a globalised world, this has become a common step in policy design. Policy analysts will also ask if policymakers are choosing to look at the jurisdictions with best practice.
In 1990, the Victorian government introduced a policy to reduce the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne. The same year Sweden and China also introduced policies with the same objectives in their major cities. All are different approaches. Which jurisdiction has produced the best outcome? Can, and should, the Australian policymakers learn any lessons from the policies from these countries, and if so, which ones?
4. Policy Discourse Analysis
This sort of policy analysis produces much broader conclusions than the three methods above. Someone undertaking this sort of policy analysis will gain insight into the society and culture in which the policy exists. A policy discourse analysis asks ‘What does this policy tell us about the society in which it is implemented?’ This method of policy analysis is particularly useful for sociologists and anthropologists and others who are interested in broader social inquiry.
In her book What’s the problem represented to be?, Carol Bacchi (2009) explains this method in some depth. It is worth reading Chapter 1, which explains how to undertake this method, as well as Chapter 2, which outlines the method’s theoretical basis. Note that Bacchi refers to this method as the ‘WPR’ method; here, we refer to it as the ‘policy discourse method’.
In the policy discourse method, the focus of analysis is not the stated intentions of policy makers, but rather the deep conceptual premises operating within how problems are represented. Analysts using this method ask not why the policy is implemented, but what social meanings contribute to the policy being seen to be necessary. Hence, policy discourse analysts aim to understand policy better than the policymakers.
The policy discourse method asks six key questions of the policy (from Bacchi 2009: 2):
What’s the problem represented to be in a specific policy?
What presuppositions or assumptions underlie this representation of the ‘problem’?
How has this representation of the ‘problem’ come about?
What is left unproblematic in this problem representation? Where are the silences? Can the ‘problem’ be thought about differently?
What effects are produced by this representation of the ‘problem’?
How / where has this representation of the ‘problem’ been produces, disseminated and defended? How could it be questioned, disrupted and replaced?
In 1990, the Victorian government introduced a policy to reduce the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne. The policy involved buying new houses for every person sleeping rough. What is the problem represented to be in this policy? Are people really sleeping rough because there is not enough housing? What is the history of homelessness and homeless policy in Melbourne? Are there silences in this representation of the problem, such as unemployment, or mental illness? Does this representation ignore other causes of homelessness? How does the media portray the problem? How might mental health groups question this representation?