The Policy Lab has been walking the talk on building public service excellence, most recently by collaborating with thought leaders in NSW and beyond to host an event at the Sydney Startup Hub on modern approaches to developing public policy.

If you missed out, you can watch the video of the session here.

New ways of working: creating ‘free agents’ to unlock and share public service expertise

The guest of honour was Amanda Bloom, the Program and Talent Manager from Canada’s Cross Functional Policy Mobility Program. Amanda took time out of her honeymoon to share her experience designing innovative placement and mentorship programs. She also spoke about their work making policy specialists searchable and transferrable across government to unlock expertise and build multi-skilled policy teams.

Amanda spoke about how her team identified core attributes for effective and flexible modern policy professionals, including the need to be analytical, collaborative, user centric, results oriented, data literate, creative and adaptable.

As a Policy Lab, we found these particularly resonated with us:

  • Collaboration is key to the co-design process – as public servants, we need to be able to work directly with our users and stakeholders to learn about their problems and find a solution that will work for all of them. 
  • Storytelling is a large part of our process. We need to be able to paint a vision of the optimistic future that we want to build so we can work out how to build it.
  • Creativity is essential to finding transformative solutions, rather than merely iterative ones. We need to be able to question the way things are to be able to take risks and experiment safely – that’s how we will find better solutions.

Amanda’s program is a great example of how the value of these skills can be recognised and leveraged outside of the lab setting, across the entire public service.
You can read more about these skills and Canada’s cross mobility program here.

New Approaches, New Mindsets and New Tools

Sarah Hurcombe from NSW Treasury’s Commissioning and Contestability Unit spoke about how she is driving human-centred service design within her department. She highlighted the importance of mindset, including being self-aware, retaining a curious mind and being comfortable with failure. Sarah talked about how these elements are crucial in building a focus on the larger transformation mission and a positive culture that generates the energy necessary to sustain change.  

Sarah’s tips on how public servants can work in the open, leverage the best of agile working techniques, and get assistance to overcome challenges include:

  • a team-based prioritised list of project actions, updated  in real-time
  • agile work planning, with tasks clearly assigned and accounted for fortnightly
  • showcasing and celebrating wins amongst colleagues fortnightly
  • regular and quick check-ins to remove any barriers by sharing information and contacts every week.

She also emphasised the importance of prototyping solutions to achieve effective evidence-based outcomes and empowering service providers with the resources and authority to scale and deliver the chosen solution.  

New Ways of Looking at Things

Policy Lab Director, Tim de Sousa, spoke about how the Lab also applies human-centred design to developing public policy. He discussed some of the Lab’s current projects, which include coding rules in legislation, making regulation and policy machine readable, and designing user-focused governance of Internet of Things technology.

He demonstrated the alpha version of the Digital Policy Landscape, which looks at the various digital-focused policies across the NSW Government (including issues like data governance, ICT, cloud and cyber security). The Landscape maps what policies exist, who owns them and how they relate to each other. The Landscape is intended to help identify policy gaps and plan strategy, but we also see it as a tool to improve transparency. You can explore the alpha version here.

The Policy Lab is seeking your feedback, especially on any policies that you would like us to include. We encourage you to get in touch with us on Twitter, email or on our website to share your ideas.