Understanding Policy Better
Policy is not legislation
My assumption was that all policy eventually became law. While it can , the preference seems to be to avoid making laws wherever possible. Instead, it’s better to think of it as a clear, recorded way of doing things. Which could be funding, process, local rules, or more complex international ones.
Policy should solve a problem
Everyone I spoke to about policy talked about best practice being to start with something to fix or improve. The better defined this is, the easier it is to solve. Which places a huge emphasis on research.
Policy needs context
Good policymakers understand their field intimately. Before committing to a course of action, reports are commissioned, focus groups convened and as much evidence is gathered about where the need is.
Policy is creative
Like any design process, policymaking is a space where people have to think laterally about how to solve the problem. This should be done within the context of the problem and should always seek to minimise the risks of making mistakes, because…
Policy is not very agile
The public sector is getting to grips with “agile” as a concept and this is especially true when creating something that may affect the lives of many people, for a long time. Particularly with commitments to spending and legislation, it is very hard to “undo” or “pivot” decisions.
Policy makers are struggling to keep up with digital
The challenge seems to mostly rest on knowledge and experience. How do you design a national policy for BitCoin, when there are no blockchain experts in your department? What do you do about AI, when you have never considered the ethics of machines being creative?
Policy making is changing
Initiatives like One Team Gov, Policy Lab and Open Gov are driving open-ness, agility, digitisation and user-centred approaches. Though this is still on the fringes, there is very much an appetite to engage more people in the movement.
Policy boundaries are changing
Like many industries, policy expertise is changing from silos, to nodes. This is disrupting a lot of the insight that would normally come from “experts” and forcing collaboration.
Policy alignment is important
When policy is likely to cross borders it becomes more complex (see Brexit/EU). There is a need for homogenisation, which will requires negotiation and collaboration. This can’t be underestimated.