Policy With Impact - The RSA

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Policy withimpactNew approaches topolicymakingJake ThoroldApril 2017

ContentsChairs’ forewords3Summary5Why is a focus on policymaking processes important?6Considering a new policymaking framework12How can government move towards a new policymaking system? 18Conclusion22

AcknowledgementsThe RSA is grateful to have received the support of the Centre for PublicImpact for this work.The Centre for Public Impact was founded by The Boston ConsultingGroup to help improve the positive impacts of governments. They are anot-for-profit foundation that brings government leaders together to learnand exchange ideas about strengthening public impact.For their input and support, thanks are owed to: at the RSA JonathanSchifferes, Ian Burbidge, Janet Hawken, Amanda Kanojia, CharlotteAlldritt, Anthony Painter and Kenny McCarthy; at the Centre for PublicImpact Harriet Loos, Danny Buerkli, Amy Noonan, Adrian Brown andNadine Smith; the speakers at our seminars Dr Andrea Siodmok, DrDavid Halpern, Barry Quirk, Dr Jill Rutter and Gavin Kelly. Finally, particular thanks to Matthew Taylor for his support throughout this project.About the authorJake Thorold in an intern in the Public Services and Communities team atthe RSA. He has a background in history and filmmaking and previouslyworked for Clinton Global Initiative in New York.The RSA inpartnership with

Chairs’ forewordsI was pleased to contribute to the RSA’s joint seminars with the Centrefor Public Impact, and welcome this short summary of our discussions.With the national political agenda now dominated by the UK’s departurefrom the European Union and with the long shadow of austerity oftenleading to pessimism about the capacity of policy to improve outcomes, itis important not to just to critique the high incidence of policy failure butto explore how things could be different and better.While this report glides lightly over a huge range of issues and debates,we hope its value lies in providing some fresh impetus to a much neededdebate about 21st century policymaking. In a world of fast changingpublic attitudes and expectations, complex challenges and even more radically changing technological possibilities our political and policymakingsystems can seem remarkably immune to the kind of radical reset theysurely need. We need not just new ideas but new partnerships – like thatbetween the RSA and CPI – that start to develop a consensus about thekey features of a policymaking framework more likely to succeed. Thisemerging consensus needs to stretch from enlightened people inside thesystem to the wider policy community and the public. The RSA hopesto make the reform of policymaking and the modernisation of publicinstitutions and services a major theme of our future work. This discussion paper is a useful starting point.I should end by thanking Adrian Brown and his team at CPI for theirpartnership, and commending the work of RSA intern Jake Thorold whotook this project from inception to successful completion in a matter of afew months.Matthew TaylorChief ExecutiveRSAPolicy with impact3

Policies that achieve tangible, positive impact. Easy to aim for yet sodifficult to deliver – despite the best efforts of ministers and civil servantsalike.Even without the looming shadow of the Brexit negotiations, thepolitical terrain is pockmarked by challenges large and small. From socialcare funding shortfalls to NHS woes to economic insecurity, the outlookis uncertain at best. That’s why there is no better time to examine how toimprove policymaking – we’ve all got a stake in making sure that government performs as well as possible.The recent seminars hosted by the RSA and the Centre for PublicImpact sought to help turn this vision into reality. Bringing togethergovernment leaders and an eclectic group of stakeholders resulted in freshinsights and exchanges, best practices and new connections. Already, itis clear that navigating the path ahead will require such discussions andinteractions to proliferate in the weeks and months ahead.I have had the good fortune to work with Matthew Taylor for anumber of years and this programme of work has been a vivid reminderof his deep qualities and insights – clearly shared in abundance by thewider RSA team. My thanks and gratitude for their efforts and finecollaboration.This discussion paper is very much the beginning of a process.Doubtless there will be many twists and turns along the way. But whilechange is never easy, this is no time to pull back. The prize of betteroutcomes and stronger policymaking await.Adrian BrownExecutive DirectorCentre for Public Impact4Policy with impact

SummaryThe Centre for Public Impact (CPI) and the RSA (Royal Society for theencouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) have been collaborating to explore how government policymaking systems and structurescould be improved to deliver more impactful policymaking. With thesupport of CPI, the RSA convened two seminars in February 2017 toconsider this topic in more depth, bringing together Whitehall policymakers, local government figures, charities and academics. We hope that thiswork contributes to an ongoing conversation concerning how policy cando better in its critical function: achieving positive impact for citizens.This report builds upon an initial stimulus paper distributed to seminar attendees by drawing on insights offered at the two sessions. We’dlike to thank the attendees for their valuable contributions. Rather thana comprehensive manifesto for how to revolutionise policymaking, thisreport offers the outline of a new consensus and gives direction for furtherinquiries into improving policymaking.This report explores CPI’s recent Public Impact Fundamentals researchand the RSA’s call for policymakers to ‘think like a system, and act like anentrepreneur’. In combination these frameworks suggest that policymakers need to be alert to a broader range of factors drawing upon a widerand more experimental set of methods and insights. In particular, ourseminars emphasised that policymaking processes need to understandlegitimacy as a key factor in success, and consider the methods by which itmight be generated in advance of a policy intervention.Legitimacy for any given policy does not, of course, exist in a vacuumfrom the broader political context. Policy often fails not due to its ownflaws, but because of dynamics in the broader political landscape. Thispoints to a major challenge posed at the workshops concerning the relationship between politics and policy, which can be counterproductive anduncomfortable. This report suggests that substantive change may requirepolitical and policymaking processes to be reformed in concert although adetailed consideration of this is beyond the scope of this paper.This paper is structured around the following core questions:1. Why is a focus on policymaking processes important?2. Considering a new policymaking framework3. How can government move towards a new policymakingsystem?Policy with impact5

Why is a focuson policymakingprocesses important?A ‘crisis of legitimacy’?Government and democratic politics more broadly is at present experiencing what could be described as a ‘crisis of legitimacy’. Public confidencein politicians is low, with little belief that government has the ability tosolve ‘wicked’ problems such as low living standards, intergenerationalcycles of poverty locally and strain on the NHS driven by increaseddemand from a population living longer. It has been further underminedin the UK by scandals such as MP’s expenses and divisiveness of eventsincluding last year’s European Union referendum. Stakeholders and thepublic feel increasingly disengaged and disenfranchised by politics, resulting in a backlash against what is pejoratively labelled as the ‘status quo’.Statistics lend support to this thesis. Yougov found in 2015 that justone in 10 people believed that British politicians want to “do what isbest for the country”, while just 20 percent believed that politicianspossessed the technical knowledge needed to “address the problems thatBritain faces today”.1 A 2016 study showing that less than 30 percent ofBritons born after 1980 believe it to be essential to live in a democracy istroubling.2Public policy failure is both a cause and effect of this ‘crisis oflegitimacy’. Regular policy failure and accompanying media coveragecontribute to a perception of government inadequacy. This in turn makessuccessful and impactful policymaking harder to achieve. First, it is lesslikely that a policy will be given the necessary support by the public andother critical stakeholders to enable it to achieve public impact. Second,even when a policy has met its stated goals, people don’t perceive itspublic impact.1. Jennings, W. et al (2014) Political disaffection is rising, and driving UKIP support.London: YouGov. Available at: affection-notnew-it-rising-and-drivi/2. Mounk, Y. and Foa, R.S. (2016) The Signs of Democratic Deconsolidation. Journalof Democracy. 27(3). Available at: les/Foa%26Mounk-27-3.pdf6Policy with impact

Media consumption statistics support the notion that public impactoften gets ignored. Data points to a majority more interested in endlessscrutiny (whether valid or sensationalist) of public service and policyfailures, as opposed to successes.3 People seek – and, in the age of onlinenews and selective social media ‘bubbles’, are exposed to – informationthat confirms their existing viewpoints.Reforming public policymaking is, of course, not the only route totackle the multifaceted nature of the crisis of legitimacy, but it has arole to play. Retaining current policymaking structures risks entrenchingthe problem further: producing more policy failures resulting in furtherdisaffection, and wasting public resources. More than ever we need tounderstand how to achieve better social, economic and environmentaloutcomes through policymaking, and consider new and creative processesthat are responsive to the current moment and the expectations andaspirations of citizens.Improving public policymaking is a significant undertaking, especiallyas the UK government faces a set of intensifying long-term challenges.Many government interventions now operate in a climate of volatility,uncertainty and complexity. New data and digital capabilities demandthat government operate faster in circumstances difficult to predict.Moreover government is subject to perpetual media scrutiny with itsdecisions dissected instantly and often ruthlessly by disgruntled voices onsocial media and elsewhere.There are, however, ample opportunities for change amidst thischallenging situation. Technology has provided us with better mechanisms than ever with which to listen to citizens, gather valuable data anddeliver strong messaging on policy reasoning and purpose. More broadly,failure – real and perceived – has produced an appetite for change bornfrom a growing acceptance that government cannot go on with ‘businessas usual’. This window of opportunity makes this a timely moment toconsider questions of public policymaking reform.A difficulty with attempting to develop novel frameworks to improvethe processes of policymaking is that the volatility, uncertainty andunpredictability of politics can get lost in abstract considerations of ‘howthings could be better’. Policymaking is often driven by short-term considerations such as political crisis or media scrutiny, leaving no time or roomfor the kind of systemic policymaking approach that we advocate. Weaddress this, albeit briefly, in the final section of this report. Policymakingwill always be subject to these type of pressures and rushed – and inevitably failed – policy will continue to be a feature of Whitehall. Nevertheless,the modes of thinking that we advocate can reduce these instances, as aculture of policymaking predicated on systemic thinking, user centreddesign and iterative approaches takes root.3. See Voltmer, K. (2009) The media, government accountability, and citizen engagement inMorris, P. (ed.) Public Sentinel: News, Media and Governance Reform. Washington, D.C.: TheWorld Bank. Available at: ldBankReport/Chapter%206%20Voltmer.pdfPolicy with impact7

The decline of New Public ManagementThe history of public management and the processes of policymaking islong and complex, and would require multiple books to review comprehensively.4 Nevertheless a broad sweep of the major trends in the UK overthe last half century may be useful in illustrating the current context.New Public Management (NPM) was the dominant public sectorreform ideology of the late 20th century in the UK and United States.5At its core, NPM emphasised that the delivery of good policy was bornefrom effective management structures centred on principles of efficiencyand accountability previously more commonly associated with the privatesector. The ideal civil servant shifted from the creative policymaker tothe competent public manager: the person who got things done. Closelylinked to the ascendancy of neo-liberalism in the 1980s, NPM advocatedthe transposition of business and market principles and managementtechniques into the public sector. This model prioritised lithe, efficient structures, epitomised by large-scale instigation of arm’s lengthbodies – or ‘quangos’— free from the stifling bureaucracy and politicalinterference of government. Incentives regimes were also altered throughextensive introduction of targets, delivery strategies in government,as well as financial rewards for high performing public servants. Thiswas coupled with a new emphasis on accountability, expressed throughrigorous data collection and inspection regimes led by new bodies such asOfsted.Neo-liberal influence was perhaps most obvious in the introductionof competition logics to the public sector. Public sector provid