As recognized throughout several reports, the future of policy work is horizontal. You simply can’t address, for example, an infrastructure issue without looking at multiple perspectives (be it Transport, Industry, Infrastructure, etc). The future of policy work will have multiple departments working together to achieve policy solutions that are holistic and address multiple perspectives of the issue.
Yet we’re still bound in our little departments. At present, we seem to address this horizontality issue by:
- Establishing an interdepartmental task force (working level, DG-level, and ADM-level in many cases) and assigning a lead department; or,
- Establishing the capacity internally
How effective are either of these solutions? In the first case, the lead department still retains control and accountability for the project (and may or may not take feedback from other departments), where as the latter is simply a stop-gap measure that discourages departments from working together unless their mandates explicitly conflict.
So what’s to be done, then?
The vision of Policy Horizons is as follows:
To promote a high and sustainable quality of life within a globally competitive Canada, through the co-creation and advancement of knowledge that informs and structures policy choices for the Government of Canada by way of an integrated and longer-term perspective.
It’s a place for members not only of the federal government, but also partners from outside the federal family, to come together to co-create solutions. A broad mandate, to be sure, but maybe one that can become a place for addressing these complex policy problems outside of the hierarchical structure required by typical departments.
On the Policy-Program Continuum, I see Policy Horizons playing a crucial role in the policy development (up to and including MC presentation), with the Program experts from whatever the final “home” department will be being involved as well. Essentially, whenever a policy objective is identified (and it’s recognized that the solution will need to be multi-departmental), the various departments will identify one person from their department to serve on the task team. The person would be seconded to Policy Horizons for the duration of the project (from policy objective identification through to program design). The policy initiative would be presented to the appropriate DM committee (allowing not just for “stakeholder” departments, but other perspectives) before eventually heading down the road to Cabinet.
Additionally, the permanent members of Policy Horizons could provide advice on creative thinking and the involvement of the private/academic sector in the policy and program design.
This idea takes away some of the turf-wars from departments, as the members of the team, while “representing” certain perspectives, are actually under the purview of Policy Horizons for the duration of the project. This frees the people up to just work on the specific policy initiative. If our goal is to provide good and creative advice with multiple perspectives, it’s important to have this “safe space” — especially with priority initiatives.
Each team would be composed of the relevant background/skill sets for the particular initiative (policy, programs, communications, etc). They would have a budget assigned specifically to them for the initiative. By report to a DM committee on the matter, directly, it removes several levels of hierarchy.
Could this be used for every single policy initiative? Not without substantial change to how we conceive of the machinery of government. Could it work for large, priority files? Absolutely. The interesting part would see if we could actually put these teams together and set them up for success.
I’m sure there’s a million reasons why this couldn’t happen — but I just wanted to put this out there!