In the last year, we’ve seen a few different reports released — things like the Canada@150 Report and the “Road to Retention” Report from the PPF. They are two of the countless reports that are released each week by policy institutes, departments, etc. The question is how do we make sure we adopt their recommendations? How do we make sure that these reports don’t just simply get put on a shelf to collect dust?
Nick touched on this in his post, looking at how oftentimes the final step for these types of reports is to be placed on a website — occasionally there is a launch event for the report. He’s entirely correct, although I think there are a few more issues that need to be explored:
Renewal Requires Engagement
I believe that small groups are often best for doing initial drafts of any documents (lest we have the “reports written by committee” issue). However, in writing that document, feedback is essential. Whether it’s data collection ahead of time, or posting drafts for comments/edits/etc, renewal initiatives especially need to be done in a relatively public forum, allowing anyone who wants to be engaged in the process the opportunity to do so. By all means, strike a smaller group to manage specific issues and be accountable, but that group has a responsibility to facilitate broader engagement throughout the process. This might mean surveys, focus groups, putting initial drafts on wikis, etc. The point is: there needs to be some sort of mechanism for those interested to be involved.
This should be a priority for any group, if for no other reason than that greater engagement can lead to solving more complex problems. Laura has an excellent post on various types of citizen engagement, although I think it can be linked back to the engagement I’m talking in this particular context as well.
This is the first step in creating some sort of ownership over the report. As with anything, you’re more likely to support an initiative or take a leadership role in it if you can see yourself in the final product. If you were present for discussions on the ideas, or provided comments on them, there’s a greater attachment to the idea. That’s not to say that people can’t recognize good ideas that they had nothing to do with — it’s to say that people, I think, are more likely to be involved in implementation if they were involved in the process.
Implementation isn’t an Afterthought
Imagine creating a policy recommendation for your department — but formulating no sort of implementation strategy.
“Money? No idea. Accountability? Dunno. I just thought it’d be a cool idea.”
That’s not to downplay the importance of new and innovative ideas — that’s how these reports get started! However, to submit a report without any thought to implementation and then hope that someone else is going to do the work to implement your recommendations raises the probability that your report may be shelved. It’s not because the ideas aren’t good, and it’s not because people are malicious — it’s that we see good ideas all the time from a variety of different sources. If you tell me how to do something, then I’m more likely to pick up on it. Or if you outline some expectations.
Or, in the context of PS Renewal, if the people who wrote the report take leadership roles in implementing the ideas (if possible), I’m even more likely to be enthusiastic about the ideas (assuming they’re willing to engage broadly with people).
What I’m trying to outline is that for recommendations in reports to be effectively picked up, there needs to be ownership in two ways: (1) from the broader community, and (2) the group that wrote it. That ownership can’t be established at the end, but rather is established throughout the process through allowing more open participation in the process. After the report is written, there will likely be more people there to support the implementation of the recommendations — which requires an implementation strategy.