ANZSOG supports NSW Department of Education to design ‘The Way We Do Policy’
22 June 2023● News and media
The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) works with agencies across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand to help them meet their individual capability needs. Supporting agencies to improve the quality of their policy advice, as well as the capability that underpins that advice, is a growing part of that work.
Throughout 2022, ANZSOG partnered with the New South Wales Department of Education (DoE) to design a repeatable, scalable approach to policy design and delivery to guide Department staff involved in strategic policy formulation and advice. The policy process and related online toolkit – ‘The Way We Do Policy’ – was launched in September 2022. This article looks at how The Way We Do Policy was developed.
Why the need for a consistent policy process and toolkit?
The NSW DoE is one of the largest education systems in the world, serving more than one million learners across Early Childhood Education, schools, and skills and higher education.
The Department decided that one way of ensuring consistently high-quality strategic policy advice was to ensure that policy staff had a consistent process to follow and that key stakeholders – including teachers, other frontline staff members and students – were involved in the design and delivery of policy from the outset.
The Way We Do Policy – a process and toolkit to support policy professionals
The Way We Do Policy is a systematic approach to improving policy advice and the processes that underpin that advice. As its straightforward name suggests, The Way We Do Policy reflects a clear and codified approach to policy development that aims to support policy makers through each step of the policy and decision-making process.
The Way We Do Policy package includes:
- a focused policy process – IDENTIFY – ANALYSE – DEVELOP – IMPLEMENT – EVALUATE – that embeds engagement, collaboration and partnerships at each stage, including with school leaders, teachers, students and parents.
- a policy toolkit with practical tools that policy makers can use or adapt, regardless of their level of experience, in their day-to-day work. For example, one tool – IGNITE – adapted from the New Zealand Policy Project’s Start Right tool, is a project initiation guide that supports early inquiry into aspects like the scale and scope of the policy challenge, who needs to be involved, and what evidence exists and/or needs to be collected. It also includes commissioning conversations, to ensure the ‘commission’ for advice is clear and not ‘lost in translation’ from decision-makers to those providing policy advice.
- resources to build policy capability at all levels of seniority and experience. A parallel skills development process supports and is supported by guidance on policy design.
- a community of practice, fondly known as EPIC (Education Policy Innovation Community) to bring together policy professionals from across the department. EPIC helped to design and refine the Way We Do Policy; it was created for and by policy staff to help them design good policy that works for teachers and students and can be implemented on the ground. It is an ongoing forum for policy staff to share their experience, challenges and lessons learnt.
An online resource for policy professionals
Murat Dizdar, Secretary, Department of Education said:
“Our intention is for The Way We Do Policy to be a practical, easy-to-use resource for anybody involved in strategic policy development, whether they work in early childhood, schooling or skills and higher education”.
Don’t reinvent the wheel – learn from and draw on experience in other organisations and jurisdictions.
Given the breadth of existing knowledge about what constitutes good policy making and advice to Government, the Department was not looking to reinvent the wheel. It wanted to tap into the experience of other agencies and jurisdictions. It chose to work with ANZSOG to ensure that The Way We Do Policy was supported by the latest global research but well contextualised for use in the NSW Education system. ANZSOG was able to bring a wealth of experience from its work in the region and globally, especially with the Aotearoa NZ Policy Project and with the South Australian Department of Education.
The Department also used the four key components of the policy infrastructure, as defined by ANZSOG Executive Director Sally Washington, who led ANZSOG’s partnership with the Department. The Department found that those components resonated as critical success factors for a joined-up approach to policy capability improvement, namely:
- engagement: ensuring diverse voices – particularly, for the Department, those of teachers, other frontline staff members, students and parents – are involved in policy development.
- a leadership team that is focused on policy priorities and the overall health of the policy function
- quality policy systems: frameworks, tools and processes to support evidence informed policy advice
- people capability: building policy skills across the Department.
How will ‘The Way We Do Policy’ make a difference?
Building policy capability is not a quick fix exercise. The launch of The Way We Do Policy was the culmination of 12 months of design work involving many people across the department. Socialising the process and ensuring the frameworks and tools are useful, and used, is a longer-term journey.
Mr Dizdar acknowledged ANZSOG’s contribution to the process and The Way We Do Policy:
“The partnership with ANZSOG has been extremely successful. The expertise and knowledge ANZSOG brought to this work allowed us to develop something that’s tailored to the Department and is supported by rigorous research.”
ANZSOG is committed to sharing knowledge and building capability across jurisdictions. That means working in partnership with agencies and encouraging them to ‘pay it forward’ to other organisations and jurisdictions.
ANZSOG’s Executive Director Aotearoa New Zealand, Sally Washington, noted, “It was a joy to work with the NSW Department, walking alongside the team to support them to develop a model that worked for them. It’s never a case of ‘build it and they will come’; rather it’s an example of ‘build it together and they are already here’. ANZSOG is able to draw on frameworks and tools from other places, adapt them to the local context, and build capability along the way. It’s the antithesis of the usual consultancy helicopter in/helicopter out scenario. It’s what ANZSOG is here to do”.
Want to know more?
Agencies interested in ANZSOG’s advisory and consultancy work on policy capability can contact Patrick Brownlee at firstname.lastname@example.org, and can also check out these resources on our work:
- The report of a curated conversation between three jurisdictions on critical success factors for building policy capability. Building policy capability (anzsog.edu.au)
- A case study on ANZSOG’s work with the Department of Education in South Australia to design a Strategic Policy Model 0BA model for strategic policy development and capability in education (anzsog.edu.au)
- An article outlining the components of the policy infrastructure Creating an infrastructure for building policy capability – lessons from practice | ANZSOG
- A Research Brief from ANZSOG’s The Bridge which summarises an article by Sally Washington on Hindsight, foresight and insight: three lenses for better policy-making