A policy cycle divides the policy process into a series of stages:

  1. Agenda setting. Identifying problems that require government attention, deciding which issues deserve the most attention and defining the nature of the problem.

  2. Policy formulation. Setting objectives, identifying the cost and estimating the effect of solutions, choosing from a list of solutions and selecting policy instruments.

  3. Legitimation. Ensuring that the chosen policy instruments have support. It can involve one or a combination of: legislative approval, executive approval, seeking consent through consultation with interest groups, and referenda.

  4. Implementation. Establishing or employing an organization to take responsibility for implementation, ensuring that the organization has the resources (such as staffing, money and legal authority) to do so, and making sure that policy decisions are carried out as planned.

  5. Evaluation. Assessing the extent to which the policy was successful or the policy decision was the correct one; if it was implemented correctly and, if so, had the desired effect.

  6. Policy maintenance, succession or termination. Considering if the policy should be continued, modified or discontinued.

Policy venues are institutional arenas where decisions on an issue can be taken. Policy images are policy communities’ shared ideas about the policy at stake. They explain what the issue is about, how it should be seen, and which solutions are appropriate. Venues and images are coupled. Policy change essentially happens when a new policy image finds receptive ground in a new policy venue and the old venue loses control over the issue, leading to issue expansion.” (Walgrave and Varone, 2008: 367)