The following is a guideline to help you write an excellent policy analysis proposal.
- Description of the proposed policy problem:
The purpose of this assignment is for you to flesh out exactly what you want to research and write. As all of you are aware, policy problems are often complex, broad, and unwieldy; meaning that the policy analyst (that is, you in this case) must narrow the broad problem topic. For example, let’s say you are interested in tackling prison overcrowding. How do you start?
What is the problem? What factors contribute to prison overcrowding? What is currently being done to address this problem? Is there some way to narrow the problem topic to something more manageable? In other words, can we attribute the rate of increase in the US prison population with other factors, such as an increase in certain crimes, problems with the judicial system, etc.?
Policy problems are at all levels of government: national, state, and local. You encounter them every day. For those of you who work full time, consider the policy problems that are apparent in your area of employment. Or for those of you who are full-time students and are not fully employed, what public problem areas interest you the most? Why? How does this problem affect the greater public interest?
- Explanation of why the proposed policy problem is significant and deserves governmental attention:
Briefly discuss a few economic and non-economic indicators to highlight the significance of the problem. What percentage of the population is affected by the problem? Which stakeholders are involved? How is the issue connected to other public problems? What are the implications if the problem is not addressed?
My goal is for you to choose a topic that is local, something that by its nature is more manageable. The example I gave above is certainly intriguing, but it is way too large for this class, given the limitations in time and resources. However, I am open to almost all policy problem areas–this is what the policy proposal assignment is all about. It gives you the opportunity to flesh out exactly what you are trying to do.
Talk to your fellow workers, student colleagues, friends, relatives, etc. Search the news media. Go back through notes and readings of previous classes you have taken at Regent. What about policy problems that RSG faculty are working on?
For the most part all options are on the table. The primary limits are that it must be a problem that needs some level of government attention, one that is manageable, and one that, in the end, you can produce viable alternatives or initiatives for solving or at least managing.
In addition to the Kraft and Furlong readings, I would strongly urge you to read Bardach and Patashnik (2016). The authors do a tremendous job of helping the policy analyst, whether a beginner or expert, think through the steps of problem definition.
- Development of goals and possible alternatives for addressing the problem
Goals and objectives are important to the policy analyst; they provide benchmarks for progress.
As you think through the problem definition stage of your project, consider what goals, whether outcomes (political oriented) or outputs (policy-oriented, specifically quantitative in nature) you are trying to achieve. For example, consider the prison overcrowding illustration. An outcome is qualitative and/or normative in nature, such as providing safer and more secure prison environments with reduced inmate numbers, while an output is quantitative and numeric, such as “reducing state prison overcrowding by 10% over the next 10 years.”
Goals and objectives are not written in stone. You can adjust as you go—that is the point of good research; you are always adjusting to new information gained and new knowledge acquired.
Alternatives, of course, are possible ways of addressing the problem. What does the literature say? What are some current legislative, executive, judicial, or bureaucratic actions taken to address the problem—whether successful or not? If not successful, consider why these means are/were unsuccessful? What can you do to address the lack of policy success?
Alternative development or building is largely based on a couple of factors: 1) brainstorming; and 2) examining past practices, assessing to what degree they did or did not work, specifically asking “Why?” and then formulating new approaches to addressing the problem. Or, more practically, drawing from a variety of different approaches or alternatives and forming a hybrid of some sort.
Keep in mind that alternatives need to be “realistic” and “viable.” This means that you are not coming up with “pie in the sky” idealistic ways to address the problem. The alternatives need to be politically palatable, policy feasible, revenue friendly, etc. Remember, you are operating within constraints (e.g. legislatively, politically, fiscally, bureaucratically etc.). For example, even if one agreed with Donald Trump’s “alternative” to the illegal immigration problem (e.g. deport all illegal immigrants back to Mexico—assuming, of course, that all illegal immigrants come from Mexico, which we know they do not), his alternative is impractical! It simply could not happen in either/both a democratic and/or bureaucratic framework. First, popular opinion would not provide the political impetus for it to happen, and, second; organizationally it would be next to impossible to pull it off.
- Brief conclusion and recommendation for future action
Finally, provide some initial concluding thoughts about the problem, establishing goals, alternative development, and various responses to your policy alternatives.
What future action might you consider necessary to continue to address the problem?
This portion of the proposal is more speculation than anything else—you haven’t done the research. However, based upon the preliminary research, and your own experience, what conclusions and recommendation for future action do you think is necessary?
I hope this brief explanation helps. It is important to get off on the right foot, and providing a solid outline—which is what the proposal is—is a solid first step. Students should note that policy analysis is not advocacy for partisan ideological solutions or pet theories. Your task is not to push a preferred policy alternative. Instead, you will apply rigorous economic and non-economic criteria to evaluate three policy solutions and recommend the most viable alternative based on the objective assessment.
Some examples of policy analysis topics/questions:
- Use of Common Core educational requirements for states and localities;
- Promotion of environmental sustainability by local government through such projects as recycling, pollution control, proper use of zoning and planning;
- Implementation of “green power” and local community reaction;
- States and cities combating the increase in legal, i.e. prescription, and illegal drug abuse;
- The costs and benefits of running city 311, 411, and/or 911 systems;
- The costs and benefits of illegal immigration (perhaps now refugees) on state and localities’ social service capacity;
- Alleviate overcrowding prisons in states such as California;
- State and local responses to improve the quality of health care and costs cut in the wake of the deteriorating fiscal, management, and organizational components of the Affordable Care Act;
- Federal, state, and local responses to the coronavirus pandemic;
- Cooperation between the feds and states on improving infrastructure investment;
- Use of social media by governments to enhance transparency and citizen engagement (e.g. how apps are getting citizens engaged; how social networking helps cops fight gangs);
- Use of public-private partnerships to finance public transportation projects;
- Use of outsourcing and privatization of government law enforcement services;
- Others? Contact me to discuss other topics before submitting the paper proposal.
Upload a Word Document in Week 3 Assignments folder in Blackboard
- Policy Analysis Proposal: In approximately 3-4 double-spaced pages, provide a brief description and overview of your proposed policy analysis project. The purpose of the outline is to establish direction and foundation, so take some time to do your initial reading and research. Your proposal should include the following sections:
- Problem Definition: Description of the proposed policy problem;
- Significance of the Problem: Explanation of why the proposed policy problem is significant and deserves governmental attention;
- Policy Alternatives: Development of goals and possible alternatives for addressing the problem;
- Conclusion: A brief conclusion and recommendation for future action.
Include a title page and references page, citing roughly 7-10 sources (these are not part of the page limit indicated above). Citations and references should be in the APA format. Contact the writing center if you are not familiar with this format.
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