miércoles, 12 de marzo de 2014

Open policy-making model and examples

The rationale behind open government is the complexity of the challenges we have as a society. Policy making is some times seen as the first scenario for the  battle between technocrats and libertarians, between those in favour of a pervasive public intervention and those who believe in the never-failing invisible hand. Unfortunately, policy making is not quite simple, but the open government principles (transparency, participation and collaboration) should be the guidelines for achieving  the right balance between the two extremes. The new technologies are the needed tools for the application of the open government principles in policy making, specially in the seek for innovative solutions for our common challenges

This post tries to be a quest to find applications of the model open government at different stages of policy making through the digital footprint left in this process.

There are several models for describing the policy-making process. For the sake of simplicity, I have chosen a four stage model for the description of the public problem-solving process: 
  • Exploration: Identification of our common challenges. Although it could look as an unneeded stage, the agreement on which are the objectives is not as easy as it looks. Sometimes what looks as challenges are only the symptom of the real challenge and an iterative and collaborative process is needed to identify the actual problem to solve.
  • Ideation: Once the challenge is identified is the time to find a solution for it. The greater the challenge the more complicated finding its solution, that usually is going to be composed of the execution of many simultaneous or coordinated actions by different actors.
  • Implementation & Governance: The development of the solution for a challenge needs its implementation and governance. The more actors play a role in the implementation of a solution, the bigger the need for a solid governance structure.
  • Evaluation: Challenges evolve. Sometimes during its tackling, sometimes once they are solved show new faces. It is needed a continuous evaluation to redefine the challenges and improve the solutions in place.
It is quite difficult to find digital footprints for all the stages in the same web site. But there are enough scattered examples of how its look like each of them. To begin with the Exploration stage, the more complete example I know its "Futurium". This online platform, set by the European Commission, tries to go beyond the "Europe 2020" strategy enabling a broad reflection on future European policies. The doubt about this exercise for identifying Europe "futures" is which is the usage all the debate will have.

There are several examples of different approaches to the ideation stage. One approach is creating a competition based on prizes. The more outstanding example of this approach is challenge.gov. Since 2010, more than 260 challenges have been run in this plataform in different areas (e.g. Energy, health, education, defense, ... ) looking for different types of contributions (e.g. IT applications, ideas, designs, ... ). A different approach is the collaboration of stakeholders model that is taken form around the data policies which is the "Datapaloozas". The basic idea is putting in the same physical place geeks, entrepreuners, sectorial experts and government in order to find how to use data to transform the sector. The more mature fruit of this approach is "Green button initiative". Obviously, the ideas in "Datapalooza" model are limited by the need to use data as the keystone of the solutions, but the model could be used putting in place any other general purpose technology in the center.

One example of the "Implementation and Governance" stage is "European Innovation Partnership" (EIP) model set up by the European Commission. The EIP model bring together all the relevant actors to step up R&D, coordinate the investments and funding tools, identify new standards needed and anticipate the changes in the regulation framework. With different shapes, all the EIPs has three key elements: A vision, an strategic plan and a multistakeholder steering committee. These governance instruments help to corrdinate the existing instruments and actions, identify unexpected gaps for achieving the vision and put in place the bridges to overcome the gaps.

Regarding the Evaluation stage, I have not been able to find any on-line examples of co-evaluation between Governments and the Society. It is not surprising. The evaluation of public policies is not yet widely spread in Public Administrations, so I have not expected that co-evaluation would have been a different story. Although, It could be mentioned that some Public Administrations, as the European Commission, usually do public reviews of policies and legislation in place in order to find how to improve them. Nevertheless, it should be hightligted that these kind of processes usually do not have a huge number of responses and, therefore, more should be done in order to make them more representatives.

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