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What comes first

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Examples and findings, Thought Pieces

About once a week I am asked by colleagues to provide an example of open policy making in action. In response, I often try to give an answer that starts with ‘here’s the traditional route that the team could have taken, but here’s what they did instead’. People are often surprised when the alternative approach to the policy isn’t whacky, radical or risky. It’s just policy-making at its best. The approach can be subtle such as the DECC 2050 calculator example on our blog where instead of using in-house models to work up a specific solution to the challenge to cut our carbon emissions (traditional approach to policy making) they used the models and published them to inform debate and invite comments and challenge from experts outside of the civil service (more open way of doing things).

A recent example of this subtle change in approach, happened a few months ago and is just coming to fruition now. I was invited to a workshop to discuss Police Now. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a scheme that takes its inspiration from Teach First and Frontline – both of which recruit high calibre graduates into their respective sectors, offering them intensive training and leadership opportunities – but for the police force.

Workshops aren’t uncommon – so what was different about this one?

Well, they didn’t just form a team that squirreled away in isolation on the proposition to launch Police Now, testing it internally and seeking approval through governance structures. Given the demanding timescales of the programme that would have been tempting, as wider engagement can sometimes feel like a luxury when time is against you.

Instead they complemented their thinking by opening up their doors at an early stage, bringing in expertise from the police, across government departments and the private sector. And that’s how I ended up in an incredibly energetic meeting being asked to comment on their early thinking, being invited to raise issues and being asked what I could contribute to the process – and that could be something as small as introducing them to a new contact. The key premise was that we all had something to contribute to make the programme better than it could have been if a more traditional, closed approach was adopted – a collaborative economy of sorts.

Has the approach got a better result for the team – better informed, better challenged and ultimately better quality?


As envisaged, it has. David Spencer, Detective Chief Inspector and Co-Founder and Programme Manager of Police Now, adds:

Looking back, the workshop we held in April was the launch pad for everything that has followed. The workshop gave us the opportunity to challenge our thinking, plan for the future and enrol people in what we were trying to achieve. The support we’ve had since from those who were there has been fantastic and it really has made all the difference to the programme launching. [Police Now has been supported by the Home Office, who have provided assistance in academic and policy research; Cabinet Office, who have advised on developing a social enterprise; PwC who have provided graduate recruitment and project planning expertise; and PA Consulting who provided support with early business modelling.]

Police Now aims to catalyse enduring change in communities – transforming our most challenged communities, reducing crime and increasing confidence in policing by recruiting and developing outstanding individuals to be leaders in society and on the policing frontline.

Read more about how David and his colleague Detective Inspector Tor Garnett started the programme here

Applications open on the 15th October 2014: apply here.

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  1. Comment by David Durant posted on

    > About once a week I am asked by colleagues to provide an example of open policy making in
    > action

    My response to this is to _please_ work with GDS to build case studies, both with positive and negative outcomes, that can be hosted online so that people can learn from others efforts.

    There's been a similar conversation today on the GDS Digital Service Designers mailing list about examples of service feedback (analytics, etc) causing changes in policy. Someone has stepped up to start documenting case studies for those. Let me know if you'd like to be put in touch to join these efforts together.

    • Replies to David Durant>

      Comment by Rachel Pascual posted on

      Hi David,

      I'd be really keen to be put in touch with GDS colleagues documenting case studies. We do much the same thing here as part of our core business in the Open Policy Making team is to share examples of open policy making 'in action' so that we can collectively learn from each other.

      We have a few ways of doing that (this blog being just one of them) and it'd be really good to chat to you/colleagues on whether there are opportunities for us to work together.

      I'll e-mail you now - thanks for getting in touch!


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