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Policy Lab brings policy folk together to explore potential professional accreditation

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Chartered surveyors have their chartership, lawyers and engineers have their skills widely recognised. What if there was equivalent professional recognition for policy officials? It’s an interesting question – read on to find out the results of a ‘Lab Light’ workshop and how you can contribute to the conversation.

Heads of Policy Profession have asked Policy Lab and the Policy Profession Support Unit to bring the policy community together to investigate what professional accreditation might involve. The project team want to get the policy community involved to understand how different policy officials learn, at different stages of their career, and if there are any points along the way at which assessment would be helpful.


On the 2nd December 2014 Policy Lab held a two hour ‘Lab Light’ workshop for 17 people across government, across grades and across professions, alongside the Policy Profession Support Unit.  Policy Lab’s Dr Lucy Kimbell, Cat Drew and Lisa Graham encouraged the group to start thinking about their hopes and fears when they think about what professional assessment might involve.


Lucy then introduced the Drayfus (2004) model of skill development, where learners progress from novice to advanced beginner, through being competent, to being proficient and eventually expert. The group created four personas of typical policy profession learners. Alex 1, Alex 2, Dwayne and Bob were created, and the groups each considered their backgrounds, qualifications, existing skills and learning goals. A ‘learning journey’ was plotted for each persona, thinking about how they learn and the challenges they might face. The groups also considered where assessment might be placed in the learning journey and the forms it should take.


Here are the results of the workshop.

Are the ‘moments of truth’ and ‘hot spots’ on the characters’ learning journeys ones you recognise? Do the hopes and fears identified by the group match yours? If you are interested, please do share the link with your colleagues and join in the conversation in comments below, on Yammer, by email, or on Twitter.


Where next for this project? Well, the results are being presented to the Heads of Policy Profession as we write! They will decide the immediate next steps for taking these ideas and developing them into a prototype the project team can test, improve and deliver.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by simonfj posted on

    It's an interesting one Laura,

    I'm not so sure that seeking ways to accredit policy makers is such a good idea at this stage, as the profession, because it stands between the citizens and decision makers, is in SUCH a great state of flux.

    Chris Wormald says, an OPMer is someone who "... is best placed to bring together all the stuff
    that open policy making generates and then turn it into something from which actual decisions can be made". I agree. But the same could be said of anyone who works in an R&D lab.

    At the same time, demands are being placed on Policy Makers to be more inclusive; from reaching out to people who actually use services, to the experts who provide them. Even this is confusing as OPMers are often caught in the middle of the co-creation. So there is a blend of skills which have yet to be developed as a policy makers' community-of-practice's combination of communication platforms are agreed upon. (You have pointed to 4 at the moment). I've made the point on the OPM LI group.

    My first thought, seeing you're following on from every uni's ideas about how open research should be conducted, is that you might have been speaking to the Open University. They have so many free modules which could be developed into a curricula, for both present professional OPMers, and those who aspire to be. They also have a global perspective of running online learning courses, and MOOC's etc.

    It's so hard, when one is trying to develop an open culture within any (of the 25) recognized civil service professions. No one profession is leading by example. e.g. It's no use running a course behind closed doors (perhaps using the inter-departmental Yammer), when half the learning in understanding citizens' much broader online cultures and platforms. One must lead by example.

    Just noting the slide about "Fear" of "Too unstructured and hard to negotiate (orientate)". That is an insurmountable fear for people who have spent their lives being comforted by an education which is "delivered" by a(n accredited) teaching institution.

    Those Hopes, Fears,and especially "Hot Spots" seem to suggest that line managers need to be replaced by SCS mentors, or at least subordinated. Perhaps that's the key, and where a recognition needs to be made. Perhaps we don't need a professional accreditation for a skills set. Maybe we just need policy makers to vote for which mentor helps guide their learning,, through their words or actions.

    Otherwise we might be guilty as any profession. e.g. Handing out awards for building a young offenders' education centre, when we need to be thinking about how not to have to build them in the first place. Merry christmas.


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