What are three things that all good policy analysts share? Edgar Rivas, who earned his Master’s in Public Policy degree from the Schar School in 2018 and is now a senior congressional legislative assistant on Capitol Hill, provided insight to students in a free webinar in mid-June.
The talk, one in an ongoing Alumni Speaker Series, was sponsored by the Schar School Career Development and Alumni Relations departments. The series draws on the experiences of successful graduates who share their insights with current students.
“The Alumni Speaker Series was generated from wanting to include alumni in the career development process,” said Brian Bar, assistant director of career development at the Schar School. “The alumni have been successful in their own career advancement and they perhaps had similar challenges as current students.”
The policy analysis webinar combined insights on the traditional hiring principals and applications of the skills required in the field.
Rivas spends much of his time employing policy analysis skills on the job. He’s distilled these insights into three areas. To him, it all boils down to a focus on people, process, and politics.
When evaluating policy, Rivas spoke on the need to address three crucial questions to consider the “people factor”: Who would your policy impact? Who are the influential players that would support and implement your policy? Who are the influential players that would oppose and impede your policy? Such questions guide one’s understanding of the players involved in both the receiving end of policy and the decision end.
In addition to people, Rivas looks at the process used to create policy and answers how could a policy be implemented. This includes executive order, administrative or programmatic processes, regulation, and legislation.
As an example, governors may issue executive orders by themselves without any legislation but those are temporary only to their term. State chambers may pass bills, but their legislation must be approved by the governor. Thus, it is crucial to identify the best process to achieve a particular end goal in policy, as some help more than others.
Lastly, Rivas discussed an often-examined part of policy analysis—politics.
He spoke on the fact that more often than not, politics does come into play whether a policy is good, bad, successful, or unsuccessful. To factor the political dimensions of a policy, he suggests analysts ask the following three questions: Is the policy partisan or bipartisan? Is the policy timely? Does the policy advance individual, organizational, or party goals?
Following these guiding questions will help Schar School students on their path to providing sharp policy analysis, whether in classroom memos or in congressional offices on the Hill.