Well, they’ve been in for a while. Back in February, we asked policymakers, and others with an interest in policy making, to vote for the top ten behaviours that policy teams should adopt in order to make open policymaking a reality. About 80 people responded; while this is not a representative sample I do think the results are informative. If you haven’t seen the top ten behaviours, here they are.
To my mind, the behaviours apply (roughly) to one of three areas: engagement, delivery and transparency. Below, I attempt to give a brief overview of the ‘top ten’ behaviours and to summarise some of the key points made by commenters .
I think behaviours 1a, 4a, 4b, 7, 8a and 10 come under this category. Taken together they should improve the experience of everyone involved in the process of policymaking- from citizens through to frontline practitioners. This, by extension, should result in:
- The most relevant stakeholders being able to contribute, and wherever possible direct engagement between policymakers and stakeholders.
- Stakeholders being asked fewer but more targeted questions. The point was made that too often, policymakers ask questions that might yield interesting information but aren’t critical to the decision-making process.
- A better understanding of the problem area and as a result, more relevant policymaking ( behaviour 7), “Asking for help to improve understanding of the issues”.
- Quicker analysis of engagement responses. I think the behaviour behind this outcome reflects policymakers’ interest in techniques and tools that will make a analysis a less labour- and time-consuming task.
Closer and earlier interaction between policy development and delivery
Behaviours 1b, 3 and 6 fall under this category. This is the category that I’m most excited about and that probably reflects the delivery-focused outlook of GDS. These behaviours should result in:
- Policies, which result in services, better reflecting the way end-users actually use services. In other words, there’ll be a greater focus on ‘user needs’.
- Policies which front-line colleagues can easily administer without having to find ‘work arounds’.
- Policies with built-in ‘feedback loops’. These loops should mean that the metrics required for policy evaluation are readily available and that policies (and the resulting services) are responsive to citizens’ feedback.
Only one behaviour, 8b, falls into this category but it’s a behaviour that covers a broad range of activities. This should result in:
- Higher levels of trust in the process.
- More rigorous policy discussions and as a result, better policy.
These behaviours raise as many questions as they offer insights- and my expectation is that the conversation will continue. Having said that this exercise, coupled with points made in various discussions on this blog as well as offline conversations with policy makers makes me think there are some clear ‘next steps’.
Tools and techniques
There are a number of digital tools and a whole range of new techniques that will support the ‘top ten behaviours’. The Open Policymaking team are in the process of curating case studies of as many of these techniques as they can find. Meanwhile the Matrix will provide a way for policy makers (and others) to browse open policy making case studies which will detail, amongst other things, the digital tools that have been helpful in delivering them. Finally, the recently launched Digital by Default Service Manual contains a lot of information about the various aspects of digital delivery (including prototyping etc.) for the curious policy maker.
While many of these digital tools are fairly intuitive there will be some where training is required. This will also be the case with some of the new techniques and approaches to engagement, identifying stakeholders and prototyping.
Building a community
Case studies and training are both important but I suspect that the most effective way of spreading good practice is through the kind of peer support that a community provides. I would love to see such a community of policy makers. Again, I think The Matrix will help with this- if only because it will help us actually identify the people behind the policies. Having said that I think there’s something to be said for face to face engagement. I wonder if there’s merit in a ‘tea camp’ for policy makers?
Merging and clarifying some of the behaviours
One of the really good points (made by Tim Lloyd) was that there was some overlap between behaviours and some of the descriptions could be tighter. I agree. For example, I think much of what’s covered by behaviour no. 13, ‘Designing a user-centred consultation’, could easily have been folded into behaviour 1a. So, I’ll have a go at tidying them up and seek your feedback on my efforts.
Getting the word out
I think getting some sort of consensus on the ‘top 10’ behaviours is a good thing but only if enough policy makers actually do them. And that means people need to know about them. So what’s the best way of getting the word out?
Over the next week I’ll be blogging some more and in greater detail on the main points I’ve raised here. Let’s keep talking.