Citizens can become more involved in decision-making processes. One way of doing so is to develop policies that create a culture of cooperation around creating and modifying rules and regulations. We recommend a few features for the process to developing these policies.
Develop mechanisms for broad and open discussion.
- Introduce regulation related to mandatory engagement of CSOs in the policy-making process, with a clear vision of the “who, when and how” for the whole policy cycle.
- Present an annual legislative plan with announcements on the expected development of new policies, timeframes, and types of consultation opportunities.
- Before introducing a policy, conduct research to clearly identify and publish stakeholder expectations.
- Define leading institutions, clear tasks, and any rights and duties for the involved parties (civil servants and stakeholders). Consider introducing a code of good practices (see this example or this one).
Under the legislative work program, the European Commission publishes an annual online plan. It contains highlights of new initiatives and downloadable key documents. Documents range from infographics to FAQs to strategic plans.
Co-design every step of the way.
- Identify key stakeholder groups (inside and outside of government), but do not limit this to formal institutions - keep in mind that your most important stakeholders could be informal networks so it may take time to find and connect with them.
- Develop a safe space to understand stakeholder interests related to the policy process of interest. Identify different priority audiences and how they may relate.
- Establish mixed working groups and councils for collaborative drafting and reviewing of legislation.
- Design joint activities (e.g. roundtables, discussion forums) that broaden the process to include more voices, considering advantages to direct democracy approaches versus representative.
Take facilitation of this new process seriously.
- Invest in ways to make this new process sustainable. Set up a team or dedicate a person, who knows the purpose of the new policy or regulation, to enable structural debate and collect useful feedback.
- Think through most appropriate tools for your participatory process. This online tool guides technology tool selection. This is a popular direct democracy platform used by OGP members.
- Focus collaborative meetings with civil servants and representatives from CSOs on developing a common language, alignment around goals, and concrete understandings of roles.
Treat feedback as a ‘must-have’ not an afterthought.
- Publish, communicate, and distribute reports on public discussions. The key is to demonstrate integration of feedback, but also provide rationale for it.
- Share direct feedback with people who participated in the process, as a way to positively reinforce their engagement. This can be done in a number of ways; for example, you can send them notifications when reports on public discussions are published, or communicate directly about the outcomes and implications for next steps together.
- Assess feedback processes to not only learn about trends in satisfaction, but also ways of strengthening the process.
Policy creation is typically understood to be a technical endeavor to which only experts can contribute. But as with most policies, this policy-oriented process targets citizen behaviors, and naturally is best developed ‘with’ and not ‘for’ those who know those behaviors. The implications of this are not small and a redesign of existing ways of working is necessary. Focusing on quick consultations will not likely be enough to get you where you want to go.