Creating Change Through Public Policy

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
June 17, 2019 - June 28, 20196/17 - 6/28M-F 12:15P-3:05POpenShameka Cathey

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Course Description

How do major, transformative changes in public policy take place? Why do some big public policy reforms succeed while others fail or languish for decades? Major public policy changes often begin in the orderly world of analysis - but end in the messy world of partisan politics. To succeed, a new initiative has to coincide with a political climate and a leadership capacity that allows the proponents to overcome the natural resistance to change.

This course will provide an overview of the public policy process and provide insight into how governments around the globe actually make these decisions. Does democracy work as described in textbooks or do pundits, lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats really make the decisions? Can individuals, community organizations, non-profits and NGOs make a difference? This class explores these questions by examining how policies are made in areas such as the environment, global conflict, international development, and health policies. Once students understand how governments make decisions, they then learn how to persuade governments to create new policies and how to rethink old ones.

Public policy is the set of laws, rules, and regulations enacted and enforced by government. Policy is made in response to a societal issue or problem that requires attention and is made on behalf of the public. Examples of public policy include: marijuana legislation, standardized testing in schools, environmental regulations, and immigration. Policy affects virtually every aspect of our daily lives yet the average citizen has limited understanding of how public policy is made or how to impact public policy.

Students will learn how to systematically think through unsolved problems such as how to respond to policies impacting poor children and families, national security, or to climate change. Students also learn how to tell whether or not existing policies are actually working. For example, has gun regulation reduced crime? Has banning plastic bags in cities helped the environment?

Prerequisites: This course is open to all rising junior and seniors with an interest in the policy making process.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0958
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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