The Government of Slovenia has developed a new approach to preparing government services and public policies. Through specially designed workshops with a 360° approach to different stakeholders, these so-called ˝Policy Jams˝ aim to develop citizen-centred policy solutions. Based on systems theories and service design principles they open up the discussion space, while gearing participants toward finding viable innovative solutions.
The purpose of a Policy Jam is to move from macro topics to concrete challenges that Slovenia is facing. To achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, governments will need to develop sustainable and future-fit solutions that will better address societal needs. Moreover, they will need to meet stakeholders' expectations while remaining viable in complex settings.
Policy Jam is a series of interactive workshops (clustered in a multiple-day event or organized over a longer period of time), where stakeholders:
- come and work on a pre-defined public policy issue,
- try to understand the key challenges,
- and seek possible solutions.
Policy Jam workshops use system approach and design thinking techniques as a method for addressing complex societal challenges and developing sustainable solutions for better services in a complex and multimodal environment.
So far, two such iterations were successfully carried out, with two very different policy areas:
1) The national system of long-term care, and (in cooperation with the Ministry of Health)
2) Future-fit economic diplomacy (in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
In each case, Government Office for Development played the role of initiator, coordinator, organizer and promoter of the event. As for the content of the jam events, we partnered with “internal clients” - ministry responsible for the policy issue at hand, realizing the objective of better interdepartmental cooperation (whole-of-government approach). Both policy areas are in line with the Slovenian Development Strategy 2030.
By creating a multi-stakeholder innovation platform, Policy jam tackles some of the most pressing issues in the Slovenian public domain:
- poor delivery due to ill-designed systems;
- a siloed approach in organizational behaviour;
- poor division of labour in policy delivery;
- a widening gap between citizens' expectations and the public administration’s ability to deliver quality services in an era of complexity;
- low trust levels between stakeholders.
The underlying goal of Policy Jam workshops is to develop better policies and solutions that will contribute to Slovenia’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Furthermore, they help to improve cooperation and trust among stakeholders through empathy and exchanging experience and bridging the gap between citizens' needs and service delivery.
Results of both events are now being used by each client in further steps toward implementation. In essence, the beneficiaries of the first two Policy Jam are divided between direct internal client – the responsible ministry, all the stakeholders involved as well as the broader society that will directly be affected by the implementation process.
The Ministry of Health has been developing a new legislative framework for systemic implementation of long-term care and Policy Jam served as a unique opportunity to harness different views and knowledge regarding long-term care from various stakeholders. 17 organizations and institutions that have an active role in providing a quality service of long-term care have actively participated in the event, varying from representatives of the Ministry of Health, retirement homes, centres for social work, pensioners’ associations, caregivers, medical staff, etc. The results of the first workshop that dealt with designing national long-term care are being used in the preparation of pilot environments in two Slovenian cities where our new long-term care system is currently being tested by the Ministry of Health.
The second version of Policy Jam event was done with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia. Instead of service design, this event had more to do with system design. The two-day event was meant to join all the stakeholders in one place in two different settings. The first part of the day was for all the systemic stakeholders – twelve organizations, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economic Development and Technology Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, and various chambers of commerce. The second part was done alongside different export-oriented companies, that are direct users of economic diplomacy services. The results of the second workshop that addressed the challenges of providing future-fit economic diplomacy are now a part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' internal reorganization process.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Policy Jam workshops:
1) Go beyond just asking stakeholders about their needs, but rather involve them in developing solutions. They increase empathy among stakeholders, build potential for more trust and they create an environment for better cooperation by bringing stakeholders together for the hands-on experience of policy development.
2) Provide a tool for public officials (policy creators) to develop policies that are not just politically, economically and legally viable, but are also user-centred and future fit.
3) Provides policy creators with the information about needs, challenges and new opportunities for all of those involved in the implementation of a certain policy (politicians, public officials, implementation organisations and individuals, direct beneficiaries and their communities.)
What is the current status of your innovation?
As of October 2018, two full iterations of a project have been executed. However, shorter trial workshops, discussions and events were held before the full first pilot was executed in order to test specific segments of the project.
After the initial ideation and planning phase, the weeks-long process led to the first successful execution of the Policy Jam (Ministry of Health, Long-term Care).
Basic evaluation has been performed afterwards and some improvements have been made to the process and methodology. Then, the second iteration was initiated (MFA, Economic Diplomacy).
After the second project, a major in-depth evaluation has been performed in order to identify the main benefits and also challenges of the project. Currently, we are planning a series of events in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development to address the ways Slovenian companies could implement SDGs.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Government Office for Development plays the role of initiator, coordinator, organizer, and promoter of the project. As for the content and ownership, we partner with “internal clients” - ministry responsible for the policy issue at hand. Then, we invite all stakeholders to cooperate with us depending on a policy issue. For example trade unions, users (citizens, companies), those who implement policies (doctors, nurses, caregivers,...), academia, and others.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
- policy creators (from ministries)
- stakeholders: caregivers, medical staff, retirement homes, social workers
- elderly (care recipients) who will be the end users of long-term care.
- policymakers (ministries of foreign affairs, economy, environment,...)
- chambers of commerce, public agencies, business associations
- companies (users)
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Both of the ministries that we worked with so far have used the results in developing specific policy solutions & public services. They reported better relationships with their stakeholders, and especially a better understanding of the issues they tried to solve. Several hidden challenges have been revealed during the process.
We can conclude that Policy Jams provide an excellent opportunity to boost policy development process, however, it takes a lot of organisation, learning, time, and energy to implement such tools into the policy process at first. In the future, we would like to work with as many directors-general as possible in order to help them and their teams to develop more functional and citizen-centred policies. Furthermore, we would like to continue to improve the methodology of the project, especially how we motivate various stakeholders to invest two full days in such an undertaking.
Challenges and Failures
Challenges that we faced when organizing Policy Jam events can be divided into internal and external.
Internal challenges are connected to:
- Internal governmental capabilities and resources;
- the willingness of internal clients (governmental bodies and institutions) to actively participate. The key role of the initiator lies in finding the right people in various governmental institutions who are willing to experiment;
- developing a most suitable format of the workshop with the optimal time frame and agenda;
- defining challenges participants will work with potential tangible results;
External challenges include:
- attracting and retaining participants throughout the event
- the managing expectation of all stakeholders
- breaking down the silo and preconceived notions among stakeholders
- dealing with challenging personalities among participants
- harnessing knowledge for best results
Conditions for Success
For this project, we received full support from the minister for development whose views on public policy innovation were fully aligned with the goals of this project. This was essential for initiating the project. Furthermore, securing the initial funds was extremely important, however, funding is more easily acquired once leadership support is secured. Probably most important for the development of this project is the tireless core team, who are willing to operate like bureaucrat hackers to bring change to a stiff environment such as public policy.
We have replicated this model twice so far, and we are currently planning a series of events in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development to address the ways Slovenian companies could implement SDGs.
Such policy development tools could be used in most of the policy creation settings in order to better understand the needs of the users and different other stakeholders in the policy executions (education, health, social care, justice,...).
However, further development of such a tool is needed in order to improve the ways to motivate high-quality participants to devote enough time to such exercises.
Also, such Policy Jams will be most effective if used as a tool by very committed teams. This is why we plan for an even better preparation period with the internal clients (main ministries) in the future. Also, further investment in the skills of public officials would be needed in order to further improve the execution of such workshops.
In order to improve governance and better respond to modern issues, working in silo should be left behind. Sustainable development goals call for horizontality and better cooperation among ministries and institutions. Public innovation events such as Policy Jam directly address that issues by incentivizing inter-ministerial cooperation and collaboration. However, different departments usually find it difficult to work together. Using design techniques in the public sector and policymaking could improve participation and cooperation of stakeholders as well as policy-makers themselves.
New policy measures in Slovenia aren’t usually tested in a small-scale environment but rather directly implemented on a national level, creating many unforeseen problems and in the end bad user experience for the citizens who consequently see public institutions as incapable of meeting their needs. Large or national scale implementation brings higher risks and higher costs for governments. Alternatively, smaller-scale testing and prototyping decrease risk and public expenditure costs, while testing new measures and services in a more controlled environment with iterations and faster improvements from feedback.
Such an approach helps to improve final products and services that address the demands and needs of citizens in a much more reliable way, thus improving citizens’ experience and ultimately their trust in the institution as well as their well-being. The design approach is based on testing, prototyping, gathering feedback information and using it to make improvements. It thus increases understanding of users' needs allowing us to respond in a much faster and appropriate way. Policy Jam events were designed and had end-user testing incorporated in the process. Implementing this on a more systemic level could bring better overall results throughout the public sector.