Improving policy practices (NZ0011)
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
· 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.
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, 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.]
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
Did It Open Government?
New Zealand's Commitments
Engagement with Parliament
NZ0012, 2018, Capacity Building
NZ0013, 2018, Capacity Building
School Leavers' Toolkit
NZ0014, 2018, Capacity Building
Making New Zealand’s secondary legislation
NZ0015, 2018, E-Government
Public participation in policy development
NZ0016, 2018, Capacity Building
NZ0017, 2018, Capacity Building
NZ0018, 2018, Legislation & Regulation
Review of government use of algorithms
NZ0019, 2018, Science & Technology
Data practice transparency
NZ0020, 2018, Capacity Building
Monitoring information management practice
NZ0021, 2018, Legislation & Regulation
open data government organizations
NZ0022, 2018, E-Government
NZ0023, 2018, E-Government
NZ0005, 2016, Capacity Building
Improving official information practices
NZ0006, 2016, Capacity Building
Improving open data access and principles
NZ0007, 2016, Capacity Building
Tracking progress and outcomes of open government data release
NZ0008, 2016, Capacity Building
Ongoing engagement for OGP
NZ0009, 2016, Capacity Building
Improving access to legislation
NZ0010, 2016, Capacity Building
Improving policy practices
NZ0011, 2016, Capacity Building
BPS Result 10 – New Zealanders can complete their transactions with the government easily in a digital environment
NZ0001, 2014, E-Government
ICT Strategy Action 13 – Open by Default: Active Re-use of Information Assets
NZ0002, 2014, Capacity Building
National Integrity System Assessment
NZ0003, 2014, Anti-Corruption Institutions
The Kia Tūtahi Relationship Accord
NZ0004, 2014, Capacity Building