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Discussion Questions - Policy Success


What lessons from this week's readings can policymakers learn and apply to policy issues currently being debated (e.g. immigration, gun control, others)?

Open Discussion Forum - Finding Success


Comment below on anything regarding the topic of policy implementation or specific things you found interesting about the readings or videos this week.

Affordable Care Act


The Future of the Affordable Care Act (7:05)

Policy Implementation


Successful Implementation

Once a policy is formulated and adopted, it must be implemented.

According to Charles Jones (1984), implementation is the "set of activities directed toward putting a program into effect."

Three activities are particularly important to successful implementation.

  • Organization: the establishment of resources, offices, and methods for administering a program
  • Interpretation: translating the program's language (plans, directives, and regulatory requirements) into language that those affected can understand
  • Application: the "routine provision of services, payments, or other agreed upon program objectives or instruments" (pg. 166)

Policy implementation is a crucial stage of the policy progress because it is where one sees actual government intervention and real consequences for society (Mazmanian and Sabatier 1983; Goggin et al. 1990).

Executive Branch Agencies

Implement most public policies within the US.

The traditional view was that they were nonpolitical administrators who simply carried out the will of the legislature, with no say in the policy beyond its execution. This viewpoint, however, is unrealistic and fails to take into consideration the influence agencies have in formulating policy and the discretion they have in its implementation. Because of this discretion, agency decisions often reflect the political philosophy and preferences of the chief executive who appointed the agency's administrators.

Chief executives try to place in the top agency jobs people who agree with them on matters such as interpreting the law, deciding on agency priorities, and choosing which policy tools to use.

At times, the executive's enthusiasm for the law, or lack thereof, becomes apparent when it comes time to write the rules. When the Federal Election Commission began to set standards for implementing the controversial campaign finance reform law of 2002, the law's sponsors in Congress complained that the rules "would severely undermine the new law" (Mitchell 2002).



Policy and Program Evaluation

An assessment of whether policies and programs are working well.

In particular, analysts look for evidence that a program is achieving its stated goals and objectives. For example, did a welfare reform policy reduce the number of people on welfare? Do the programs have unanticipated consequences, particularly any that are viewed as harmful?

Of the many reasons governments engage in policy and program evaluation, costs may be among the most important. Government programs are usually expensive, and policymakers, who must be accountable to the voters, want to know if the results are worth the money. In addition to costs versus benefits, analysts have many other methods for evaluating policies, but as with policy formulation, legitimation, and implementation, evaluation is not merely about technical studies of program results. It also involves political judgments about a program's worth. In this sense, programs are continually, if often informally, evaluated by members of Congress, interest groups, think tanks, and others.

Policy Change

The modification of policy goals, the means used to achieve them, or both. The change could be minor, moderate, or extensive.

Most often a policy or program undergoes incremental change in an attempt to make it more effective or to meet the objectives of its main constituencies and other policy actors. Termination of a policy or program is one of many kinds of changes that might be considered, although it is rare.

All public policies can be considered to be experiments in which government and the public learn what works well and what does not. In some cases, what is thought to be a resolution of a problem though policy adoption at one point is later evaluated and judged to be unacceptable. Interested parties then advocate changes. Another round of the policy cycle begins as the newly recognized needs reach the political agenda and a different policy is formulated and adopted.


Eric Patashnik - Keynote Address, Parts 1, 2, 5



  • Goggin, Malcolm L, Ann O'M. Bowman, James P. Lester, and Laurence J. O'Toole Jr. 1990. Implementation Theory and Practice: Toward a Third Generation. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman/Little, Brown.
  • Jones, Charles O. 1984. An Introduction to the Study of Public Policy. 3rd ed. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Kraft, Michael E. and Scott R. Furlong. 2010. Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
  • Mazmanian, Daniel A., and Paul A. Sabatier. 1983. Implementation and Public Policy. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman/Little, Brown.
  • Mitchell, Alison. May 2002. "Law's Sponsors Fault Draft of Campaign Finance Rules." New York Times, A16.