Crowdsourcing alternative policy proposals’ impacts on SMEs (small and medium enterprises)
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)
Open and inclusive policy-making builds upon the idea of designing policies by broadening the evidence base. An innovative web-based tool called SME test enables the public (citizens, business entities, economic and other interest groups) to quantify the impact of their alternative policy proposals on SMEs, in addition to substantiating their comments and proposals on a public policy proposal. Despite the tool's ease of use, it enables users to conduct more sophisticated analysis.
We launched this project out of the desire to ensure that public policies are prepared in cooperation with stakeholders, who can provide new, invaluable inputs, innovative ideas and evidence about the problems as well as the solutions.
On the other hand, it is also based on the awareness that not all stakeholders have the capacity, knowledge and resources to be able to provide structured responses and suggestions to policy makers, which are based, inter alia, on data.
The result of activities is online application, which can be accessed by all interested public via eDemocracy portal, which is intended for consultation with stakeholders on public policies and regulations in the making.
At the Ministry of Public Administration the application development started in 2015, primarily intended for regulatory drafters. The main goal was to integrate the application into The Modular Environment for the Preparation of Electronic Documents (MOPED), that enables the preparation of all documents, required in the legislative process. It combines different modules all based on the same information and applied the same standards, including the SME test.
The main functionality of the application is calculation of the costs and benefits of various alternative options to solve the identified policy problem. Although it is essentially based on the Standard Cost Model (SCM) methodology, it enables the identification of qualitative effects of proposed public policies, as well as all others compliance costs such as direct financial costs and costs of additional investments. It is linked to the public records, so users don‘t need to obtain information on individual parameters required for the calculation of costs and benefits (e.g. population).
In the first step, the user identifies various alternatives to solve the policy problem and assigns to them all the related obligations, that the stakeholders, to whom the regulation refers to, will have to comply with. For each obligation, the user enters the parameters necessary for the calculation, and then the system itself calculates predicted costs or benefits. It is important to note, that a calculation can be made not only for new obligations, but also assessment of impacts of amended or abolished obligations can be made.
The test was officially introduced into the policy process in 2016, and mandatory for use since January 2017.
Objectives, goals and beneficiaries of the innovation
During the development of the project, we witnessed the need for similar tools for the interested public who wish to participate in the regulatory process. Despite the desire for constructive cooperation with stakeholders, public reactions at different stages of drafting the regulation are often unstructured and come in the form of a free text. Regulatory drafters often do not get the concrete data needed for evidence-based policy design. So the decision to open the tool to the public was taken.
The public can thus access the tool through the eDemocracy portal, that enables citizens to actively cooperate and take part in the decision-making process. The most important part in that is the chance to influence the drafting of regulations by expressing opinions and sending proposals and comments on regulation drafts to those who prepare them and to the final decision-makers. The eDemocracy portal allows publishing of documents of regulation that is being created. The interested public (citizens, NGO’s, etc.) can, therefore, participate in the regulation drafting process by sending their comments, proposals opinions via the eDemocracy website.
From spring 2018, in addition to submitting a comment, the public can also provide a concrete calculation of the anticipated effects of the proposed policy alternatives.
In the future, we plan to continue to carry out activities aimed at encouraging use of the tool by the public as well as the implementation of similar tools for assessing the effects in other areas such as social, IT, the environment, etc.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The project represents a unique and innovative way of stakeholder engagement and co-creation of public policies. It relies on an inclusive approach where all relevant actors are involved and attention is paid to marginalised, disadvantaged or less powerful groups, who do not have the necessary resources, to prepare similar analyses as those prepared by professional interest organizations. Individuals can thus base their position on concrete calculations, even if they have no knowledge in the field of statistical or economic analyses.
On the other hand, it allows drafters of regulations to get a concrete insight into the real situation in practice.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The project is implemented, the public can access the application. Training of representatives of the largest interest groups was also carried out. Currently, activities are aimed at helping users and promoting the use of the application.
Collaborations & Partnerships
In the development phase of the application, the development was carried out according to the needs of the drafters of the regulations and the methodology for assessing the effects of draft regulations on SMEs.
When the application was adapted for use by external stakeholders, citizens and representatives of interest groups were included in the development. The application is thus adapted to the lay public, which does not know the methodology for estimating costs and benefits of public policies.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The first group of beneficiaries are government officials, which are expected to prepare an overall impact assessment on the economy, especially on the small and medium enterprises.
The second group are citizens, civil society organizations and also companies, enabling them to use the cost-benefit quantification tool, thereby reinforcing the arguments for their proposals.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Given the early stage of project implementation evaluation of the effects has not yet been made. According to the monitoring results, the share of impact assessments of regulations, submitted to government procedure, which include concrete calculations is increasing. An upgrade of the application is also being prepared, in the direction of obtaining accurate data or usage statistics.
Challenges and Failures
Although it is not necessary to know the methodology for cost and benefits calculation in detail, it is necessary to enter certain parameters, which requires a careful consideration from the draftsman of the regulation. The problem was solved through permanent trainings of both, public officials and stakeholders. There is also help-desk available to the users and guidelines published on websites of the government.
Conditions for Success
Experience shows that personal values and motivation they are crucial when developing and implementing an innovation such as this. Given that the main objective is to facilitate the work of public officials on the one hand and, on the other, to strengthen the power of public argumentation, it is necessary to reconcile a multitude of needs and desires.
It is also important that people are aware that this kind of innovation does not make their every day job more difficult, but in the first place, as soon as taken on board, brings quality in the regulatory process.
Certainly, there is also leadership and support, especially in the initial stages of project development and implementation, when a certain share of people refuse to change the way they operate, even before they are well acquainted with an innovation.
The application can be replicated with the aim of adjusting for impact assessment to other areas. It is also not necessary to be strictly applied to regulations, it is useful in the assessment of the costs and benefits of all public policies that in one way or another affect the lives of citizens and businesses.
Certainly, the main lesson is that the process of project development and implementation is easier if the stakeholders or the target group are involved in all stages of preparation and implementation. If the innovator has their needs, wishes, and even problems as the main guide, his/hers success cannot fail.