Policy can be defined as an action plan to implement any prescribed activity or measure, whether by an individual or a group of individuals; the prescribed activity or measure being meant to benefit an identified segment or group. An understanding of how to create, develop and implement policy is crucial if the policy is effective or successful in reaching the desired objective(s) for which it was created. Some insight on how you can understand the various steps in policy development is discussed in this article.
The first step is to identify why a documented policy is required; this means collecting information or data, identifying a requirement or need which changes the current status quo. For example, the requirement or need could be for complying with established law, or is based on a demand by a significant portion of the community, or based on lessons learnt from carrying out a particular project or exercise.
Solutions and recommendations
Once the need for the policy is established, the next step is to establish an open forum where all affected parties are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and recommendations on how the main objectives of the proposed policy can be fulfilled. This can be done by establishing a separate phone line, email address or post box, where people can call in, mail or write their suggestions, ideas and opinions.
Discussion & preliminary draft
The people in charge for putting the policy together sit down and discuss all the relevant data and information collected. This is done in a detailed, step-by-step manner, addressing each main identified point separately. Once the discussion is complete and an initial framework is prepared, create the first draft of the policy and circulate it among all stakeholders for their opinion and suggestions.
Revise & circulate
Based on the first reactions on the first draft of the policy, the committee gets together again to discuss and incorporate changes as recommended, prepare a second draft and circulate among stakeholders for a final run-through.
documentation & test implementation
So far, all the discussions and probabilities have been on paper; the success of any policy can be determined only once it has been put into practice and for this, carrying out field tests on policy implementation is recommended. Based on the results of the testing and identification of gaps, the policy document is reworked and a final version created.
Implementation & monitoring
The policy is put into action and for the first few months, the implementation is continuously monitored and kinks worked out as and when they come up. Generally, a 6-12 month period will suffice to monitor implementation of the policy, but if required, more time can be allotted for this purpose. During this period, any changes which will make the policy more effective must be undertaken.
Periodic review & correction
Once the policy implementation is complete in its entirety, it is important to review since time and circumstances are never constant. A half-yearly or annual review is recommended to ensure policy development and implementation is robust and real-time results are available.
These seven basic steps in policy development must be rigorously followed to ensure the success of any policy.