Policy Types

The purpose of this page is to provide guidance on how public policies should be defined and evaluated on the Atlas. By creating a sample list of a policy types, the page is designed to create a common language for users in naming policies. In addition, an Atlas user with a specific policy goal may wish to browse this list of policy types in order to help brainstorm the types of policies they might employ to address their goal.

Principles for scoping policy names and articles

Effective policy names and articles should:

  • Name a policy action, not simply a condition: What is the action being taken by government? E.g., a "balanced budget," is not a policy but a condition, which may or may not have been reached by a policy of "balanced budget requirements" - policies in which a government is legally prohibited from adopting a budget that does not provide revenues to cover expenses. The policy entry should thus be on "Balanced budget requirements," and not on "Balanced budgets."
  • Scope a singular policy action: What is the level at which an individual policy, and not a package of them, may be analyzed? Many government "policies" are actually initiatives that bundle a series of policy types together, and each policy type should have its own article. For example, the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (sometimes referred to as "Obamacare") is a lengthy law and set of regulations that bundle together many different policies. However, "Individual health insurance mandates" or "Pre-existing condition insurance denial prohibitions" are specific policy concepts that could individually be replicated by other governments without necessarily replicating all other reforms in the bill.
  • Names a policy as a generic concept instead of the name used by a specific adopting jurisdiction: Instead of using jargon or jurisdiction-specific titles, the policy should be named and defined in simple language that allows a wide audience to quickly grasp its concept. For example, what is known as "Social Security" in the U.S. should not have its own article. Instead, the policies that comprise it would each be described in distinct articles with generic language - e.g., "Disability-based benefit payments," or "Age-based benefit payments."

Structure of policy names

It may be helpful to start a policy name with a unique noun that is likely to be of primary emphasis in a user's search term. The first word of the policy's name will dictate how the page is alphabetically listed on policy category pages and may aid a search engine user in finding the appropriate page. Second, it is helpful to add clarifying words to the policy name that specify the policy's purpose or subarea. Third, each policy should end with a word from the list of policy types below, allowing readers to quickly comprehend the nature and scope of the policy.

Examples of names for different policy types include:

  • Cockpit access restrictions
  • Defibrillator provision requirements
  • Driver and pilot licensing
  • Residence-based admission preferences
  • Traffic calming device installations

List of policy types

Below is a list of policy types that may be considered for use on the Atlas.

Policy Type Description of Policy Type
Accreditation Requiring institutions or programs to undergo formal reviews and meet certain criteria in order to achieve a certain operating distinction.
Acquisition Formally taking ownership of property through purchase or force.
Agreements Entering into written agreements to formalize relationships or establish terms of use.
Alerts Regularly issuing communications to warn or inform the public about issues of concern.
Allowances Formally permitting a certain type or level of activity.
Audits Regular reviews of programs or institutions to ensure they are operating in accordance with all stated procedures and requirements.
Certifications Formal designations to validate that an institution, program, or project has demonstrated that it meets certain criteria.
Commissions Appointed groups charged with issuing advice or executing a function on behalf of government.
Construction Publicly-led construction of an asset.
Designations Formal classifications upon which certain preferences, rules or requirements may be based.
Discounts Offering price discounts for specific populations or terms of use.
Displays IBoards or monitors that publicly communicate information to those nearby.
Dispositions Selling, leasing or licensing property for financial or other benefit.
Distributions Allocating resources or services to different areas.
Easements Legal rights of use held by one party with regards to the property owned by another party.
Enforcement Procedures and penalties designed to increase compliance with regulations or requirements.
Events Organized activities.
Exemptions Exceptions made to otherwise established procedures or rules.
Evaluations Reviewing and assessing an institution, program, policy or individual's effectiveness.
Fees Established prices for the use of certain services.
Financing Method of funding the delivery of goods or services.
Fines Punitive payment obligations levied for violating certain rules.
Guidelines Publishing suggested methods, standards and advice.
Incentives Rewards offered to promote or deter specific actions or behaviors.
Inspections Manual reviews designed to assess or audit conditions.
Installations Installing physical assets or features.
Licensing Recognizing an entity's right to operate based on factors such as the passing of examinations or acquisition of rights.
Monitoring Tracking the status of something to inform decision-making.
Networks Groups of organizations, individuals or infrastructure.
Notifications Communications that provide updates or reminders on specific issues.
Partnerships Agreements between governmental and non-governmental organizations to achieve mutual goals.
Penalties Tracking the status of something to inform decision-making.
Permitting Issuing the right to perform a specific type of activity under established conditions.
Planning Developing approaches, procedures, designs or principles to guide future actions.
Preferences Incorporating criteria that confer advantages or benefits to specific types of entities or groups.
Procedures Establishing rule-based methods for conducting governmental action.
Programs Creating ongoing activities to serve governmental purposes.
Promotions Public service advertisements and campaigns to encourage or discourage certain actions.
Publications Distributing information.
Public-private partnerships Relying on non-governmental organizations to serve a governmental function for mutual benefit.
Ratings Formalizing evaluations by assigning overarching designations, grades or scores.
Reactivation Returning inactive assets to productive use.
Registries Compiling lists of items, persons or entities for reference or certain treatment.
Reporting Communicating updates on the results of a policy or program.
Requirements Establishing mandatory obligations or rules that must be followed.
Restrictions Placing limits on the nature, scope or type of allowable activity.
Rights Establishing protections for activities or behaviors that cannot be prohibited.
Sensors Using devices to collect data for decision-making.
Standards Establishing expected protocols or levels of performance that are to be met, potentially under threat of penalty or with potential for reward.
Stations Creating designated locations to receive specific services or conduct specific activities.
Subsidies Providing funds to offset the cost of receiving certain services.
Systems Creating networks of infrastructure, technologies and people used to coordinate service delivery.
Taxes Requiring payments for a portion of certain activities or assets in order to fund government services.
Tracking Following the movement of funds, vehicles or people to coordinate activities.
Trainings Offering educational courses to improve skills or knowledge.
Waivers Issuing formal exemptions to pre-established requirements, often after application and negotiation.
Zoning Designating certain land use restrictions and rights for a given area of land.