Delivering Great Policy: a model for great policy advice to create better outcomes for all Australians
Delivering Great Policy is a cross-agency initiative to improve policy advice by lifting policy capability across the Australian Public Service (APS). The collaborative approach co-designed the solution with the broader policy community inside and outside of government, redefining what best practice engagement looks like for policy-makers, to achieve better outcomes for all Australians.
Multiple studies over the last ten years chart a decline in APS-wide policy capability, but attempted changes to approach have not delivered improved results.
The brief for this project was to agree:
- A definition of great policy advice;
- A framework for policy capability.
The initial framing talked about capability in terms of traditional policy-crafting skills. Through the process we started thinking about capability in a much broader sense – not just skills and tools, but mindsets and culture.
A key element was the need for actionable outcomes (not another research paper) and skills transfer to the project team to ensure endurance.
The elements of great policy are not new, but it wasn’t clear why these elements aren’t delivered on. It’s not just individual talent or capability – the APS already has a lot of very capable people.
We collaborated with over 170 stakeholders to understand blockers to implementation which led us to broaden the scope to consider cultural and mindset changes. We role modelled new approaches with staff and stakeholders, challenging the “how it’s always been done” mentality, with great success. This helped us to identify the practical things that can be done to improve policy advice and outcomes despite context constraints.
The primary impact of the project was to challenge embedded ways of working, and allow APS policy practitioners to try new approaches.
New behaviours role modelled by the team included:
- Iterating – sharing things early and seeking genuine input, before they’re polished.
- Asking open questions, of someone who won’t have the same opinion.
- Thinking about different ways of communicating (beyond PowerPoint).
- Doing what you can, in the moment, not waiting for the perfect solution.
Throughout the project, we demonstrated approaches outlined in the model can work in practice, at the most senior level and when high stakes are involved.
Other Key Features
The prototype model was officially launched to 250 stakeholders in November 2019. The launch served to showcase the model to a broader audience and give attendees the opportunity to practically engage with the new approaches through taster activities and short workshops. It also provided an opportunity to gather further reflections and ideas from those in the policy field.
Since November the team has run further workshops to generate, test and refine ideas for practical ways to apply the model. We’ve been testing the model on real-life policy projects, with great success. We have found the model itself serves well as a mechanism to bring diverse teams together over policy design; giving them a shared language and goal, and practical ways to improve how they engage people in policy design to achieve better outcomes, no matter their team’s context.
The team continues to incorporate learnings from these tests back into the model and ways to apply it, to enable policy teams more widely to grow their capability. Resources are shared through the Delivering Great Policy website https://www.policyhub.gov.au/.
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