The five stage model is an analytical framework which divides the public policy developmental process into five distinct stages:
1) Setting the Agenda
At this stage, a social problem is acknowledged to be of interest to the public, and a policy to address the problem is placed on the government's agenda. In order to convince the government to consider a specific policy, groups must 1) identify a social problem, 2) articulate what makes it problematic, 3) come up with possible solutions,and 4) draw the attention of policy-makers to the problem and solutions.
Setting the agenda is generally done by actors such as lobbyists, activists, and the common public.
The creation of a policy is dependent upon this stage. This stage sets the stage for prioritizing specific issues to be addressed by policy. How the issue is framed at this stage also influences the final outcome.
2) Framing the Issue
At this stage, the concerned policymaking body identifies the stakeholders of the specific problem and solution. They also define the exact nature/interpretation of the problem as well as the possible solution(s). Generally, different groups of stakeholders advocate for their own interpretation and propose solutions.
This stage is a negotiation between policymakers and groups of stakeholders. Each group tries to influence the policymakers to adopt their interpretation of the social problem and implement their proposed solutions.
This stage determines the power dynamics between different coalitions of social actors who are influenced by the policy.
3) Forming the Policy
At this stage, policymakers take decisions about the specific approaches that will be taken to address the problems. This stage also involves making decisions about the practical concerns involved in implementing a policy, like how many resources will be devoted to implementation of the policy.
This stage primarily involves governmental actors who draft the exact language of the policy proposal and then vote on it.
This stage significantly impacts the actual tangible effects of the policy as well as its efficacy at solving the problem identified in stage 1.
At this stage, the executive branch of the government sets in motion the regulations set out in step 3. According to the directives set out in step 3, resources are allocated and administration structures are built to make the policy a reality.
The implementation of a policy is dependent on a combination of government actors and stakeholders of the policy. The interconnected group of actors who are involved in this process are referred to as the policy network.
This stage significantly impacts the exact groups who are affected by the policy and the extent to which the problem is addressed.
5) Evaluating Policy
At this stage, the policy is examined to determine its efficacy. The precise impact of the policy is compared to the objectives set out in stages 1 and 2. Then, the logistical decisions made in steps 3 are examined to determine if making changes would increase efficiency.
The evaluation of a policy may be done by the government, independent private consultants, the stakeholders, or by the general public.
The results of this stage determine whether a policy is continued, amended, or terminated.