What Are the Stages of the Public Policy Process?

The public policy process starts with problem identification, which is succeeded by agenda setting and policymaking stages, explains the University of Texas at Austin. With policymaking complete, the process then moves on to the budgeting and implementation stages and ends at the evaluation stage. In practice, however, these stages overlap and incorporate other smaller steps in a process that is essentially unending.

The elite or the public may express dissatisfaction with existing policies and trigger the first part of the public policy process, the identification stage, which revolves around the diagnosis, delineation and articulation of a policy problem or deficiency by individuals and institutions such as political parties, interest groups and the mass media, notes the University of Texas at Austin.

Parties in the next step of the process, agenda setting, consider and develop coherent problem descriptions and seek to incorporate them into the agendas of Congress, the White House, the broader political system and a variety of bureaucracies, reports the University of Texas at Austin. In the succeeding stage, policymaking, the relevant players evaluate the problem descriptions and devise policy solutions or reject them. If accepted, Congress authorizes the policy prescriptions, which are subsequently refined by the bureaucratic process.

In the next stage, budgeting, Congress votes on the money needed to execute the policy prescriptions, leading to the next step of the process, implementation, which is handled by executive agencies, according to the University of Texas at Austin. In the last stage of the process, evaluation, an array of actors explore the impact of prescribed policies. Typically, this leads to identification of new problems and triggers another policymaking cycle.