Skip Navigation
New Zealand

Improving Policy Practices (NZ0011)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: New Zealand Second National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Head of the Policy Profession, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: New Zealand End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, New Zealand Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Improving policy practices We will improve knowledge of tools and techniques policy makers can use to create more open and user-led policy. Objective: To ensure that policy advice to government is better informed by insights from those most affected by government policy and programmes, by input from diverse points of view, and by data and evidence. Status quo: Commitments to consult interest groups have long been part of New Zealand policy making – for example, it is written into New Zealand’s CabGuide (Guide to Cabinet and Cabinet Committee Processes) and regulation analysis practices. We can improve consultation practices, for example, by exploring digital tools and evolving fit-for-purpose participatory decision-making practices. There is also an array of new approaches, to engage directly with ‘customers’, or those that will be affected by government decisions, that can add value to the design of policy and subsequently deliver greater public value. Ambition: We will create accessible, easy-to-digest guidance material on: being an ‘intelligent customer/user’ of data and evidence; methods for gathering and generating insights from others, particularly those directly affected by policy and public services; using collaborative approaches, so that policy is informed by a broad range of input and expertise and meets user needs; testing and improving policy and services with citizens-as-users.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

7. Improving policy practices

Milestones:

· Map evidence and insights ecosystem, existing practice, expertise and guidance sources

· Test buy-in and support for all-of-government guidance

· Design prototype and refine the format of the guidance for optimal usability

· Co-produce contents with, and for, the government policy community

· Launch and commence change management and communications campaign.

Responsible institution: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Supporting institution(s): Other policy making departments

Start date: October 2016

End date: June 2017

Context and Objectives

The Chief Executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) is New Zealand’s Head of Policy Profession. This role is responsible for improving the policy system, i.e., capabilities, systems, and methods. He leads the Policy Project which was established in 2014 to improve the quality of policy advice across government and focuses on building a high performing policy system that supports and enables good government decision making. There are active professional programmes for policy leaders, policy managers and policy practitioners.[Note173: ‘The policy community,’ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, accessed 17 January 2018, https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/policy-project/policy-community. ] Three policy frameworks covering policy capability, policy quality and policy skills have been co-designed with government policy communities.[Note174: ‘Policy improvement frameworks,’ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, accessed 17 January 2018, https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/policy-project/policy-improvement-frameworks. ] Although the policy capability framework has an ‘engagement customer-centric’ focus,[Note175: ‘Policy capability,’ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, accessed 17 January 2018, https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/policy-project/policy-improvement-frameworks/policy-capability. ] the framework for creating user-led policy is mostly covered outside their frameworks using the policy methods toolbox.

This commitment, a sub-project of the Policy Project, states that it will improve knowledge of the tools and techniques policymakers can use to create more open and user-led policy. The intent is to build on existing consultation commitments set out, for example, in the CabGuide: Guide to Cabinet and Cabinet Committee Processes,[Note176: ‘CabGuide,’ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, accessed 17 January 2018, https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/publications/cabguide. ] and regulation analysis practices. These existing commitments relate primarily to the consultation required for Cabinet Papers.[Note177: ‘CabGuide: Cabinet paper consultation with interest groups,’ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, accessed 17 January 2018, https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/publications/cabinet-paper-consultation-interest-groups.] This commitment is relevant to civic participation. By creating easily accessible and understandable guidance material, the commitment will address the broader operating space that enables participation in civic space and educate policymakers in creating user-led policy. It is not intended to contain any public-facing element of disclosure of information, or to hold government officials publicly accountable. The commitment’s ambition is to create accessible, easy-to-digest guidance material for internal government policymakers on: using data and evidence in policy development; gathering and generating user insights for policy development; and improving the understanding of methods for involving the public in policy development.

The specificity of the commitment is high. Over nine months, the project will research and map existing approaches, design the format of the guidance, and prepare and publish it. All listed deliverables are clear and can be measured.

The IRM researcher considers that achievement of this commitment would have a minor potential impact for stakeholders. Its aim to add new approaches to those set out in the CabGuide by, for example, engaging ‘directly with 'customers' or those that will be affected by government decisions’, is a major step toward creating a framework for creating user-led policy. The commitment is also led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), in partnership with deputy chief executives with policy responsibilities from across government. Improved policy practice and DPMC’s and senior executive’s leadership are both factors which would indicate a greater level of potential impact.

However, the Government added this commitment to the action plan after the August 2016 co-creation workshop with the support of the EAP, but without any other public engagement. While it is necessary for government policy development to have an internal focus, the guidance will not be developed collaboratively nor tested with those with whom it wishes to engage. There is significant risk that it will not gain the public’s trust and confidence. While stakeholders were pleased to see a commitment focused on improving policy methods, all questioned its inclusion in the action plan, because of its lack of a public-facing element. Another stakeholder noted its actions as being very removed from its outward-looking ambition statement. Furthermore, the use of the term ‘customers’ in an open government commitment text is also of concern as it suggests a business rather than citizen relationship even if unintentionally. The IRM researcher has, therefore, concluded that this commitment has only minor potential impact.

Completion

The March – May 2017 progress report to the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) reported progress has been made on the delivery of an online policy toolkit. It stated that the toolkit is being designed to provide a number of web-based products for policy practitioners; that it has been built with users to ensure it is approachable and easy to use; that a method of ensuring information is kept up-to-date post-launch has been confirmed, with a wiki-style approach to authorship agreed.[Note178: ‘Commitment 7: Improving policy practices,’ Open Government: New Zealand, May 2017, http://www.ogp.org.nz/assets/publications/2017-reporting-progress/commitment-7-2017-March-to-May.pdf. ] The IRM researcher notes that the users assisting with the build of the policy toolkit are all government policy officials, not potential external contributors to policy development.

The end-of-term report will assess the online policy toolbox, its uptake and the impact of this commitment.

The Clerk of the House of Representatives has advised the IRM that 'there is significant potential for the implementation of this commitment to result in better law-making'. He reports that 'during its 2017 review of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, the Standing Orders Committee (2017, I.18A at 25) supported my proposal to collaborate with central agencies to identify ways that pre-introductory policy and consultation processes by Government agencies could align more closely with the House’s consideration. The purpose of this work would be to inform the development of proposals for rewarding good pre-legislative policy-making, which could provide tangible incentives for Government departments to adopt an inclusive approach to policy development. Currently the short three-year parliamentary term does not necessarily encourage Governments to take the time to consult and collaborate with civil society when developing legislative proposals. Work on this area may well align with the Commitment 7 work-stream deliverables.'[Note179: Clerk of the House of Representatives. Open Government Partnership - Clerk's comments on Mid-term 20162018 report; submitted to the OGP IRM, 4 February 2018.]

Next Steps

The IRM researcher recommends that this commitment be extended to June 2018 and the following new activity added:

Test the guidance in the policy toolbox with stakeholders by June 2018 using the same process by which commitment five’s online engagement guidance is tested.

Engaging with the wider public throughout the country and developing elements of public facing and government official accountability into this Commitment would start to address the concerns of stakeholders who question its eligibility to be part of a National Action Plan. For example, Transparency International New Zealand 'urges DPMC to engage with the wider public throughout the country as a means of developing this important initiative into a commitment eligible to be part of a National Action Plan. It urges DPMC to develop elements of public facing and government official accountability into this Commitment'.[Note180: Transparency International New Zealand. Submission to the OGP on the draft OGP IRM New Zealand Progress Report 2016-18.]

For the next action plan, the IRM researcher recommends the following:

Collaboratively develop standards for public participation in developing future policy and develop capacity for the public to provide feedback on proposed policy as it is being designed.

This new work could use the enduring public engagement platform being developed by Commitment 5 and complete the stated objective of this commitment: ‘To ensure that policy advice to government is better informed by insights from those most affected by government policy and programmes, by input from diverse points of view, and by data and evidence.’

IRM End of Term Status Summary

7. Improving policy practices

 
Commitment Aim:

The government aimed to create accessible, easy-to-digest guidance material for creating government policy informed by experts, including “citizens-as-users.” More specifically, the commitment set out to map the current evidence, insights, and existing practices. It planned to test buy-in and support for all-of-government guidance. It also sought to co-produce contents with and for the government policy community and start work with them to encourage use of the guidance.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) completed Milestones 1-4. It mapped the evidence and insights system, existing practice, expertise, and guidance sources (Milestone 1). It gave approval to design and build an all-of-government policy methods toolbox with government policy ministries (Milestone 2). It used a wiki-style approach to authorship (Milestone 3), and the toolbox was produced with and for the government policy community (Milestone 4). The clerk of the House of Representatives notified the IRM researcher that “there is significant potential for the implementation of this commitment to result in better law-making.” [Note112: Clerk of the House of Representatives. Open Government Partnership - Clerk's comments on Mid-term 20162018 report; submitted to the OGP IRM, 4 February 2018] The IRM researcher noted there was no civic participation and recommended a new activity to test the toolbox with the public. For more information, see the 2016–2018 IRM midterm report. [Note113: “Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): New Zealand Progress Report 2016–2018,” Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/New-Zealand_MidTerm_2016-2018.pdf. ]

End of term: Complete

DPMC completed Milestone 5 in August 2017 with Release 1 of the policy methods toolbox. [Note114: “Policy Methods Toolbox,” the Policy Project, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/policy-project/policy-methods-toolbox-0, accessed 9 August 2018.] It published the toolbox online after receiving feedback from government agencies on the policy development methods they wanted to know more about. The toolbox included advice on starting a policy project, behavioural insights, design thinking, and ways to engage individuals and groups in policy design and development. [Note115: Commitment 7, quarterly report to the EAP March to June 2018, http://ogp.org.nz/open-government-partnership/expert-advisory-panel/ ] Desk research by the IRM researcher found that DPMC promoted the toolbox and its policy improvement frameworks. The DPMC did so across its policy community, academia, on its website, and on social media. Its promotion noted these tools contained “common themes relating to the OGP commitment around the better use of evidence and building diverse perspectives into policy.” [Note116: See footnote 3.]

DPMC followed the IRM researcher’s midterm recommendation that the guidance be tested with civil society stakeholders. DPMC tested it in 2018 with the Expert Advisory Panel, the OGP multi-stakeholder panel. That panel noted that “the guidance was fit-for-purpose in terms of improving the knowledge of tools and techniques policy makers can use to create more open and user-led policy.” The panel also stated that it supported the IRM researcher’s midterm recommendation for collaborative development of standards for public consultation on policy initiatives. [Note117: IRM discussion with the EAP, 8 August 2018.]

Did It Open Government?

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

This commitment sought to improve government’s established policy-making practices by developing guidance on how to create policy informed by experts, including “citizens-as-users.” DPMC developed and released the guidance in consultation with its government policy colleagues. It also retrospectively consulted the small OGP multi-stakeholder Expert Advisory Panel. It did not consult parties beyond these groups.

The IRM researcher understands that in 2018, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) interviewed some external public engagement experts. However, there is no sense at this stage of “a serious change to policy practice.” [Note118: Stakeholder interview, 2 August 2018.] The EngageTech Forum 2018, jointly presented by government and civil society experts in late August, was an interactive event for government staff only. [Note119: “New and Events,” Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, https://www.dpmc.govt.nz/events/engage-tech-forum. ]

It is too early to publicly establish the uptake of the toolbox by the policy agencies. However, DPMC has promoted it widely to them. DPMC notes 4,500 hits on the toolbox’s website since August 2017, “more than the 2,800 policy officials in NZ public service.” [Note120: See footnote 3.] This exposure suggests wide interest in co-creation of policy beyond government.

Carried Forward?

Commitment 5 in the 2018–2020 action plan continues this work. It extends the existing policy methods toolbox public participation guidance. That extension includes a public engagement approach. It also includes undertaking a demonstration project on public engagement in policy development that is higher on the International Association of Public Participation public spectrum than “inform” or “consult.”

Commitment 6 in the 2018–2020 action plan aims to develop an assessment model to measure implementation of the all-of-government Digital Service Design Standard by public sector agencies. It proposes “public engagement on a refresh and review of the Standard.” [Note121: http://www.ogp.org.nz/assets/Publications/91b28db98b/OGP-National-Action-Plan-2018-2020.pdf]


Commitments

  1. Engagement with Parliament

    NZ0012, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. Youth Parliament

    NZ0013, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. School Leavers' Toolkit

    NZ0014, 2018, Capacity Building

  4. Making New Zealand’S Secondary Legislation Readily Accessible

    NZ0015, 2018, E-Government

  5. Public Participation in Policy Development

    NZ0016, 2018, Capacity Building

  6. Service Design

    NZ0017, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. Official Information

    NZ0018, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  8. Review of Government Use of Algorithms

    NZ0019, 2018, Science & Technology

  9. Data Practice Transparency

    NZ0020, 2018, Capacity Building

  10. Monitoring Information Management Practice

    NZ0021, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  11. Open Data Government Organizations

    NZ0022, 2018, E-Government

  12. Open Procurement

    NZ0023, 2018, E-Government

  13. Open Budget

    NZ0005, 2016, Capacity Building

  14. Improving Official Information Practices

    NZ0006, 2016, Capacity Building

  15. Improving Open Data Access and Principles

    NZ0007, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Tracking Progress and Outcomes of Open Government Data Release

    NZ0008, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Ongoing Engagement for OGP

    NZ0009, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Starred commitment Improving Access to Legislation

    NZ0010, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Improving Policy Practices

    NZ0011, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. BPS Result 10 – New Zealanders Can Complete Their Transactions with the Government Easily in a Digital Environment

    NZ0001, 2014, E-Government

  21. ICT Strategy Action 13 – Open by Default: Active Re-use of Information Assets

    NZ0002, 2014, Capacity Building

  22. National Integrity System Assessment

    NZ0003, 2014, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  23. The Kia TūTahi Relationship Accord

    NZ0004, 2014, Capacity Building