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How is policy made and who makes it?

Usually, a governing body triggers development of policy with an accompanying strategy and/or plan of action
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Policies exist in a range of contexts, from national and international levels to local governments and sport clubs. They are typically adopted by governing bodies, such as organisational boards or governments, and contribute to decision making by providing a well-designed, targeted system of principles for an organisation to follow.

Usually, a governing body triggers the development of policy, either directly or indirectly, through announcing strategic intent. This intent is then developed into a policy with an accompanying strategy/plan of action.

How is policy made?

While the exact process varies between countries and contexts, the basic process for policymaking follows a similar pattern:

  1. Recognition
    The first stage involves calling attention to the need to address or prevent a public issue, often through legislation or other actions. Government officials and advocates work to ensure the issue becomes part of the agenda.
  2. Consultation
    Consultation is vital, particularly with those the policy will affect, allowing them to input their views and expertise. Consultation enables more information to be collected, which will form the basis of policy formulation.
  3. Formulation and adoption
    Once a solution to the problem is proposed, policymakers draft the policy. This process is different in every country, but generally members of a governing body (for example government or a sport federation) work with other stakeholders to agree upon legislation and/or plans that will be put in place.
  4. Implementation
    Depending on the policy, it is up to national and local governments, civil society actors and communities to see that the policy is carried out effectively.
  5. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)
    It is necessary to assess whether the policy is achieving the proposed outcomes with regular monitoring and evaluation throughout. M&E is not only designed to take place after the fact and is an ongoing process. Typically, policies addressing social issues remain in place for a long time but can be amended or terminated if they do not achieve the intended outcome(s).

Who makes policy?

The policymaking process is led by ‘policymakers’. The term policymakers is wide-ranging and in different contexts, it can refer to the board members of an organisation, government ministers or the management team of a sports federation.

The more complex the environment or higher level the desired change, the more complex the policymakers’ role, and the more important the need for external input such as specific legal advisors.

Remember that you are likely a policymaker and that policies likely affect your work.

Find out more information on policy and policy making in sport and development

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Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes

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