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Public Policy Formation, Adoption and Implementation

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Public policy formation is the study, creation and implementation of laws, regulations, funding priorities or other actions on a specific public issue by a local, state or federal government. Public policy strategy can also be the rescinding of an existing policy or the deliberate decision not to act1 upon an issue as well.

Public policy formation and policy strategy are ongoing due to continual re-evaluation of the effects, costs, resource allocation and burdens of a course of action. Additionally, formulation and adoption generally follow a process similar to this.

Problem identification/agenda setting

An issue must be clearly delineated and stated as a discrete issue to receive support from governmental entities. It should also undergo detailed analysis regarding the time, cost and resources needed to bring about the new policy. Often, issues in the public sector are interrelated, such as child hunger and school performance. This process, therefore, can involve the input of numerous public interest groups, public servants and constituencies.

One critical sub-step here is the determination of policy evaluation criteria. While cost and effectiveness certainly are factors in determining the adoption of a public policy, a policy’s likelihood to succeed due to political expediency and sponsorship are also things to consider.

Public policy formation

This step involves the approach(es) needed to solve the issue. There can be several competing proposals depending on the agendas of stakeholders involved. This may also involve considering alternative courses of action and forecasting and modeling the impact of future situations. This process may be long or drawn out. The definite endpoint to this step falls along the lines of actions such as when Congress considers a bill or a regulatory agency proposes rules.

Public policy adoption

When all proposals, alternatives and compromises have been made, adoption occurs in a definite and public way. For example, think of a state legislature devising new regulations on the ratio of caretakers to children in daycare centers. Sponsors of the bill commission impact studies, conduct site visits, solicit testimony from educators, parents and psychologists; and often the governor holds a signing ceremony when he or she enacts the bill into law. On a federal level, Congress passes legislation, proposed regulations from the Securities and Exchange Commission are finalized , or the Supreme Court issues a decision.2

Policy implementation

Carrying out a new policy often falls to entities that were not the ones that formulated or adopted it. If Congress passes a law regarding pharmaceuticals, the Food and Drug Administration is made responsible for implementing it. When the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of a court case, states are left to determine how to facilitate the outcome of that decision.

Policy evaluation

Policies need to be monitored to ensure they are working correctly — that they are properly implemented, pass a cost-benefit analysis and are not facing unforeseen obstacles. Policies that are outdated, ineffective or no longer supported by their interest groups or congressional champions may face termination or replacement with entirely new policy strategy.

Those who desire to work in policy strategy, public policy formation, public policy education or in a wide variety of public administration careers should ideally have a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. Online programs such as the MPA degree at Anna Maria College deliver not only a sound foundational and real-world basis for successful public administration careers but also provide the access and flexibility for working professionals and those who cannot relocate to enroll in their desired program.

For more information about Anna Maria’s Online Master of Public Administration (MPA), contact us today at 877-265-3201.


  1. “The public policy model.” The Center for Effective Government. (accessed July 29, 2016).
  2. “Policy making: Political interactions.” (accessed July 29, 2016).


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