To view a copy of the guide in Arabic, click here.


Civil society, as the bridge between policymakers and the public it serves, is uniquely empowered to lead the early stages of policy-making. As a result, understanding the policy process and developing the ability to identify, define, and analyze public policy problems is of crucial importance for individuals and organizations aiming to promote reform and solve problems that impact their communities. To do this effectively, it is important first to understand policy as a deliberate system of principles designed to guide decision-making, determine a course of action, and define roles and  responsibilities. Well-crafted policies are problem-solving tools that work to make administration more effective and efficient and minimize losses, inefficiencies and waste.

Public policy is created through a complex and iterative process that can differ in many ways across issues and between countries, regions and localities, but broadly speaking it can be broken down into five general stages: (1) problem identification; (2) policy formulation; (3) policy adoption; (4) implementation; (5) evaluation. This guide will focus primarily on the problem identification and policy formulation stages, which are usually completed through policy analysis. These are also usually the stages at which civil society has an important role to play in bridging the gap between the public and government. Civil society is crucial to the policy-making process as it is best equipped to identify public problems of importance to communities, conduct research independently and efficiently, raise public awareness and appeal to policymakers who rely on civil society for information.

This guide discusses how policy is made, defines policy analysis and presents multiple approaches to it before discussing in detail the various steps and stages involved in completing a rigorous policy analysis including problem definition, data collection and evidence assembly, constructing alternatives, and selecting criteria against which alternatives can be compared. The guide also describes how policy analysts can project the outcomes of their alternatives and confront the tradeoffs of each before finally deciding on the recommended course of action. Finally, we discuss how to best present and use a completed policy analysis for advocacy, media outreach and public awareness.