This opinion piece was written by Frankie Wood-Bodley, lead advisor of operational policy, process design and advisory services at New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.
Addressing complex policy issues requires a multi-disciplinary approach, which means collaborating and co-designing policy with “non-policy people”. Building and implementing legislative frameworks that can be supported by developing systems and operational policy and processes that reflect the policy’s intention is essential.
Gone are the days where policy analysts could work in siloes, dream of an idea to address the policy issue facing society, instruct the service delivery arm to build it and then pass the legal instruments required to bring the legislative framework to life.
It is time for public sector policy shops around the world to harness valuable contributions that “non-policy people” can bring to policy development, implementation and operationalisation. We must utilise this rich body of expertise for the greater good of society by collaborating and co-designing throughout the policy lifecycle.
Shifting from siloes to multi-disciplinary teams
Developing and implementing effective policy requires traditional policy shops to take a more strategic look at the policy lifecycle and reimagine the policy development process.
The policy lifecycle covers policy development, implementation of the legislative framework, operationalisation of the policy through systems, operational policy and processes and delivery. If we are to implement effective legislative frameworks to address complex policy problems, we cannot solely rely on teams of policy analysts to develop the underlying policy.
Effective implementation and operationalisation require that the service delivery and operational arms of the business, which traditionally have a small amount of involvement in the policymaking process, be actively involved in policy development from the beginning. This ensures that the needs and concerns of the service delivery and operational arms of the business are addressed up front and throughout, rather than at the tail end of the legislative process, when it is often too late.
A key benefit of taking a collaborative and co-design approach is greater efficiency
A key benefit of taking a collaborative and co-design approach is greater efficiency when it comes to developing systems, operational policy and processes.
In construction, one seldom relies on a builder to do the plumbing or wiring, unless, of course, the builder happens to also be a qualified plumber or electrician. This work is typically carried out by plumbers and electricians working alongside architects, engineers and builders.
In software development teams, developers are not responsible for determining whether or not the code they write functions in the way it was designed to. This is done by test analysts and business analysts who work with the developers to address any issues with the way the code performs or was designed.
This begs the question why do we rely almost entirely on policy analysts to develop policy and legislative frameworks, then wonder why it’s hard for service delivery arms to implement them as intended or why it does not meet the needs of the service delivery arm?
A chance to re-imagine policy development
Public sector policy shops all over the globe have the opportunity take a new approach to policy development and implementation by leveraging the technical expertise, experience and backgrounds of a boarder range of “non-policy people” that have traditionally been left out of policy processes.
As demonstrated above, working in multi-disciplinary teams is not a new phenomenon — but this approach to policy development it is not yet the norm in policy shops. If they are to operate effectively in the modern world, a multi-disciplinary and agile approach to policy lifecycle is required.
Harnessing the rich and valuable insights and experience of people in non-policy roles is essential to building fit-for-purpose solutions
Harnessing the rich and valuable insights and experience of people in non-policy roles is essential to building fit-for-purpose solutions to complex policy problems and implementing new legislative frameworks. Co-designing and collaboration increases the likelihood that a policy will be implemented and used as intended. We cannot continue to rely on political science, public policy and law graduates to solve complex policy problems in isolation from, or with little involvement of those in charge of implementing solutions.
Public sector policy shops need to redefine what it means to be a “policy person” in the modern policy lifecycle and re-imagine the policy development process. In a world where policy problems are increasingly complex, and collaboration and information exchange are facilitated by digital technologies, a more diverse range of people can participate in policy development.
We need to collaborate and co-design policy with frontline service delivery and operations people, business analysts, developers, test analysts, cultural advisors and privacy and security professionals from the beginning. It provides policymakers with a rich body of expertise, perspectives and backgrounds, which can help address complex policy problems for the greater good of society. — Frankie Wood-Bodley
(Picture credit: Frankie Wood-Bodley)