|Glossary Policy Terms|
Policymaking can be a complex process even for those in the public sector. Making it even more opaque and confusing at times is the fact that the philanthropic and public sectors operate very differently, particularly when it comes to power and decision-making. When building relationships with government, it is important to keep these differences in mind.
Policymaking is a democratic and political process. Those who participate in the process are those who end up shaping policy. While grantmakers cannot lobby, they can engage with policymakers throughout the policy development process.
Opportunities for Grantmakers in the Public Policy Cycle
Public policy development is often described as occurring in a cycle or stages.
Problem Definition and Agenda Setting
Interest groups and other stakeholders vie to get policy "problems" onto the agenda. Grantmakers, too, can influence the public policy agenda through research, general advocacy, and other means of raising the profile of problems they care about. Once a issue garners enough attention, it is addressed through either legislation or regulation. Policy options to address the problem are debated by legislators or regulators. As long as a specific piece of legislation is not under debate, grantmakers can seek to influence policy development at this stage.
Policy Adoption and Implementation
Once a single policy solution is settled upon, lobbying and debate begin in earnest. Then, once legislation is passed, government officials create policy programs to implement the law by creating rules and regulations. This is an important but often overlooked part of the policymaking process. There are many opportunities for grantmakers and their grantees to impact policy as it is being actualized through rules and regulations by meeting with regulators and providing research and general education about the policy.
Monitoring existing public policy to ensure that it is implemented and enforced as intended is another way to impact policy. Courts, legislators, and interest groups can monitor implementation. Grantmakers can provide key leadership and funding to evaluate policies after implementation, either through their own leadership or by funding activities that challenge the legitimacy of the policy. If the actual outcomes do not match up with the original policy goals, the policy process can repeat itself until a more effective policy is created and implemented.
Policy change is often incremental. It builds off of or improves current policy. However in some cases, rapid and dramatic policy change can occur in response to a major event such as an election, change in administration, or change in national mood. Although these dramatic policy changes may seem to appear out of the blue, they are the result of considerable behind the scenes work by interest groups and others who were waiting for an opportunity to push their policy agenda. Grantmakers can have considerable impact in this area of policy development by providing leadership or funding to develop policy solutions.