Strategy, Policy & Evaluation
Planning and analysing situations and challenges, to develop and deliver excellent advice to government is at the heart of what we do as a public service.
The public service will always have an important role in providing high quality policy advice to successive governments. Proficiency in strategy, policy and evaluation is key to the capability and professionalism of the public service.
Understanding the strategic objectives, purpose and desired outcome is critical to effective policy development.
APS Craft: Strategy, Policy and Evaluation - Stephanie Foster
It takes a set of qualities and practises to be able to develop and deliver and implement great policy in an environment that where there are no silver bullets.
Why is strategy, policy and evaluation important to the work we do at the APS?
The process of articulating a strategy and then developing the supporting policies to deliver on that gives us the best possible chance of doing what we're all here to do. And we're all here because we want to make a difference to the lives of Australians. And we want to make a positive difference and in the shortest possible time and with the least possible pain and expense.
How can strategy help our work at the APS?
If we have a clear idea of what we need to achieve, what objectives we're trying to deliver, then the pathway we take will be much clearer to get there. And it means that we'll be directing our efforts and our resources and our people to absolute maximum effect.
Why is policy important?
Strategy is critical in terms of looking at the whole game and knowing where you want to go, but without the underpinning policies that are anchored in today's world and today's problems and delivering now, it's half a pie.
Why is evaluation important?
I think we need to fundamentally change the way we think about evaluation. Unless we actually start our thinking about our policy with its eventual evaluation in mind, and with its ongoing evaluation in mind, then the risk is that we never get there because priorities change, the program changes. The evaluation strategy that we designed when the program looked like that is no longer appropriate when it looks like this. It also means that we're not setting ourselves up to respond adaptively.
What’s your best advice for delivering sound Strategy, Policy and Evaluation?
Having a set of four principles and a checklist of 10 things you should do in front of you when the world is going mad around you can be the difference between delivering something excellent and having a disaster.
What’s the most important thing to remember when developing Policy?
Extraordinarily important in that policy process to be walking in the shoes of the people whom we're trying to support or deliver services for, or deliver better outcomes for, and genuinely understand what the world looks like from their perspective and what will make the most difference to them.
Delivering great policy advice to government is at the heart of what we do as a public service. It’s the best advice that we can provide to decision makers to enable them to deliver better outcomes for all Australians. Great policy advice is achieved when it is:
- clear on intent;
- well informed;
- practical to implement; and
Whether there is a need for immediate advice, or for long term policy development, your policy capability must evolve and adapt to broader changes in the policy environment. Great policy also requires whole of government coordination and genuine engagement with stakeholders within, and outside, government.
Robust evaluation is critical at all stages of policy development to achieve desired strategic outcomes. Outcomes must be reviewed and tested regularly to ensure they are on track to being achieved. The public service must also learn from previous evaluation findings, and make adjustments to improve and stop activities that are not leading to desired outcomes.
Frameworks and methodologies
The model for great policy advice comprises of four key elements: Clear on intent; well informed; Practical to implement and Influential. The elements apply to all types of policy, from large scale cross-cutting efforts to smaller localised implementations. The elements are not new. The difference will come with changes to the culture, mindsets, skills, tools and processes that support delivery. You can learn more about the policy model via the Policy Hub.
The New Zealand Government Policy Project identified three areas (capability, skills, quality) that can strengthen policy capability and designed three frameworks for reference and improvement of policy advice.
Tools and templates
The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources have offered some templates to help articulate your policy proposal (Policy Development template) and your policy idea (Idea on a page)
The Open Policy Making Toolkit is a product of the UK Government's Open Policy Lab. Access a range of tools and techniques to assist you with the range of activities involved in your policy process including: finding the policy problem; understanding user needs; prototyping and what to do if you only have 24 hours.
The Agile Policy Playbook provides tips and templates to help teams deploy Agile practices and tools to enhance their effectiveness. This resource will help you learn the principles of Agile and use the tips and templates with your team to clarify goals, accelerate delivery and manage risk.
Nesta's online toolkit provides tools and resources to encourage innovative policy development. There are a range of toolkits to choose from including Anticipatory regulation, data, design, innovation, strategy and evidence.
The New Zealand Government’s Policy Methods Toolbox is a repository of policy development methods that helps policy practitioners identify and select the right approach for their policy initiative. This first release of the toolbox is focused on newer methods. Over time, the Toolbox will be expanded to include a range of new and traditional policy development techniques.
This resource guides users through methods to answer their evaluation questions and provides tools to plan and implement an evaluation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from the United States Government offers useful resources and insights into the discipline of evaluation.
This resource from the NSW Government offers a model and tool that assists in deconstructing and defining public policy.
The Evaluation Ready process provides a helpful framework to ensure your policy is able to be evaluated against its objectives, benefits and risks.
The Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) works to ensure Government policy and decisions are supported by the best possible evidence and analysis. The case study video, ‘Using lessons learnt to drive continuous improvement’, explains why evaluation is a critical part of the policy making process.
Networks and centres of excellence
The Behavioural Insights Practitioners’ Network is coordinated by the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA). It provides a forum for existing behavioural insights practitioners across the APS to meet and hear from colleagues in other agencies, share their experiences, and develop their understanding of emerging trends in behavioural economics.
BetterEvaluation is a site which fosters international collaboration which supports the improvement, practice and theory of evaluation by creating and curating information on choosing and using evaluation methods and processes, including managing evaluations and strengthening evaluation capacity.
The Analysis and Policy Observatory provides a platform to users to access public policy research as well as provide information and access to upcoming learning, events and networking opportunities
A directory of behavioural economics and behavioural science academics.
Behavioural insights tools assist understanding human behaviour, which can inform policy design. The New Zealand Government have provided a range of resources including key readings, tools and case studies for you to further explore behavioural insights.
This OECD publication discusses how evaluation can help governments improve the design and implementation of public policies that can, in turn, lead to prosperity for country and enhanced well-being for citizens.
APS Academy Courses
The program aims to build APS capabilities for leaders to apply their public sector technical and contextual knowledge and skills to optimally fulfil their responsibilities to clients, citizens, Parliament, Ministers and their agency. It has a mixture of instructional, collaborative, peer-to-peer and ministerial activities.
The program, delivered across four modules, focuses on four key topics to build foundational strategic workforce planning capability across the APS. Topics include: setting up workforce planning linked to business planning and deliverables; utilising labour market to gain insights; storytelling using workforce data; and how to implement workforce planning to drive business outcomes and deliver benefits.
This program has been developed by the BizLab Academy at the Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources. It introduces the principles, tools and techniques of Human Centred Design and how to apply them to service/policy design and implementation. With the ultimate aim of creating better citizen-centric outcomes for clients and the community.
Delivering Great Policy Module 1: Clear on Intent - Face to face
The Clear on Intent course is one of four modules in the policy craft suite. This module can be taken as a stand-alone course or as part of the suite, and provides attendees with the skills required to discern and articulate a policy's intent. Attendees will also develop skills in ensuring that advice is considered and relevant, and enhance their ability to use outcomes focused language in a policy context.
Delivering Great Policy Module 2: Well Informed - Face to face
The Well Informed course is one of four modules in the policy craft suite. This module can be taken as a stand-alone course or as part of the suite., and provides attendees with the skills required to locate and exploit existing sources of experience, along with identifying and drawing on multiple, credible sources. Attendees will also enhance their ability to seek multiple and diverse perspectives on available options and develop informal tests establishing the credibility of an evidence base.
Delivering Great Policy Module 3: Practical to Implement - Face to face
The Practical to Implement course is one of four modules in the policy craft suite. This module can be taken as a stand-alone course or as part of the suite, and will enhance attendees capacity to plan a process for choosing a solution that is credible, flexible and of high quality. Attendees will also develop skills in selecting and embracing approaches that suit evaluation metrics, and recognise the value of approaches that engage with implementation stakeholders.
Delivering Great Policy Module 4: Influential - Face to face
The Influential course is one of four modules in the policy craft suite. This module can be taken as a stand-alone course or as part of the suite, and will enhance attendees ability to develop an influence plan incorporating quality standards. Attendees will also develop skills in ensuring influence plans are replicable and scalable to different situations, articulate an influence plan that is compelling by defined standards, and implement their influence plan through an approach that is highly likely to meet defined objectives.
This course is aimed at employees seeking to understand the key processes and considerations for preparing a New Policy Proposal. As this is a skills set that is core for professional public servants, it is suitable for employees from APS, EL, or SES levels.
Understand the processes of strategy, the language of strategic thinking and strategic planning. Examine the methods and models used including group-based planning processes. Discuss and share experiences about professional thought practices, work and team planning, and operating strategically in the APS.
Using Statistics to make Evidence Based Decisions
This course has been designed to extend the learning from the Using Statistics eLearning module and provide the opportunity for supported practice. Participants will collect and examine numerical data and perform a range of basic statistical calculations with support from an expert facilitator.
Data Literacy - Module 1: Using data in the APS - eLearning
This module provides definitions and explanations of key data terms and concepts. It also explores how the APS uses data and why data skills are so important.
Data Literacy - Module 2: Undertaking research - eLearning
This module will help participants apply effective research skills and techniques. it covers framing research questions, locating and evaluating information and forming conclusions.
Data Literacy - Module 3: Using statistics - eLearning
This module will help participants engage with statistical information. It will build their understanding of key terms and concepts, help them perform basic calculations, and interpret and present statistics correctly.
Data Literacy - Module 4: Visualising information – eLearning
This module will help participants present data visually in a way that is clear, accurate and accessible. It includes tables, charts, graphs and diagrams.
Data Literacy - Module 5: Providing evidence for decision makers - eLearning
This module will increase participants ability to provide sound logical advice supported by credible evidence.