Open Policy Making

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

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Concept description

The UK Cabinet Office (reference below) defines open policy making as being about:

“developing and delivering policy in a fast-paced and increasingly networked and digital world through:

  • using collaborative approaches in the policy making process, so that policy is informed by a broad range of input and expertise and meets user needs
  • applying new analytical techniques, insights and digital tools so that policy is data driven and evidence based
  • testing and iteratively improving policy to meet complex, changing user needs and making sure it can be successfully implemented”

The Cabinet Office provides on the following guidance:

Be open to new ideas and new ways of working – Listening to new ideas and engaging people will give you new insights and help you see problems from a different point of view. Design thinking and agile working are examples of new approaches that can help seeing a problem from a user perspective. …

Be humble – Gathering evidence, information and a broad range of views is vital. It is important to be humble about what you know, and what you don’t know. Open policy is about recognising that you are not the only expert and that you do not have monopoly on good ideas and policy development. Where good ideas exist, it is your job to find them.

Understand the real needs of users – Understanding user needs will help you develop policy that works for the people it impacts. Begin by understanding how users currently experience a policy and go from there. …

Involve the public – Engaging with the public will help you understand and gauge the public mood. The people with the most knowledge of how services and policies are working are those that it experience it first hand.

Work with experts and engage with new knowledge – Experts can help you to better understand a policy problem, review possible solutions and challenge assumptions. Experts include:

  • User researchers and ethnographers who work with users to understand their experiences and problems.
  • Designers can help to create innovative policy ideas throughout the policy cycle and facilitators can help you talk to the public and engage in an open and safe environment.
  • Academic experts and subject matter experts can bring new knowledge to a policy area.
  • Digital experts open up the possibilities of engaging at scale and analysing large volumes of evidence at pace.

Test and use evidence to improve your policy as you go along – Test and iterate policy solutions to make sure they will work for users in the real world. This will help to take a policy from the idea stage to a deliverable product that works.

Use data to learn, prove and succeed – Use data to generate new insights and learn what is working and what is not. It can tell you about who your audience and users are and help you understand what the problem is from their perspective.”

Open Policy Making toolkit

The UK Cabinet Office has published an online manual tools and techniques to support Open Policy Making at

Material is organized under the following themes of Open Policy Making:

Open policy making in a digital age

In Canada, the Public Policy Forum (reference below) has published a summary report and discussion paper on a policy innovation conference for Federal, Provincial and Territorial Clerks and Cabinet Secretaries on 13 October 2016.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Promoting Innovation and Driving Change (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107


Getting started with Open Policy Making, Open Policy Making toolkit, at, accessed 26 September 2017.

Public Policy Forum (2017), Open policy making in a digital age: Summary report and discussion paper, at, accessed 26 September 2017.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 26 September 2017.

Image: Open Policy Making toolkit, at, accessed 26 September 2017.