Report calls for a human-centered approach to public policy making

19 February 2024 4 min. read

Policy-makers need to transition away from traditional approaches and embrace a more holistic and human-centered approach in order to keep up with rapidly expanding globalization and evolving technology. That is according to a new report from Sia Partners, published in collaboration with the World Governments Summit.

The report from Sia Partners and the World Governments Summit looks at the potential for policymakers to incorporate empathy into new policy by embracing new approaches.

“Policy makers worldwide need to keep improving on the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of their decisions, while navigating the mounting complexity and diverse stakeholder interests in contemporary ecosystems” said the authors of the report.

Report calls for a human-centered approach to public policy making

Source: Sia partners

Service design

One key way of taking public policy making to the next level is by applying ‘service design’, an approach that integrates a framework focused on systems with a focus on user experience seen through a design lens. This approach equips organizations and policymakers with a systematic method to enhance service quality and the delivery experience. It involves improved planning and careful use of available resources.

An example of this type of policy comes out of South Korea, where the Ministry of the interior brought in public servants and citizens to set new policy on things like hospital companions, solutions against dementia, farm hygiene, and reducing plastic use.

“Policymaking is a systematic approach to addressing societal challenges and shaping the course of events. However, in reality, the process is complex and multifaceted, and far from a traditional linear project flow,” said the authors of the report.

Policy work involves using evidence, politics, and delivery goals to create a plan. To succeed in this, policy officials must think critically and use a wide range of skills. They need to handle complex bureaucracies, plan resource use, and drive change despite resistance.

Report calls for a human-centered approach to public policy making

Source: Sia partners

All of that requires strong analytical abilities, strategic thinking, and effective communication. Possessing these skills is crucial for analyzing data, understanding power dynamics, and building relationships by considering diverse perspectives, constraints, and emerging opportunities.

Policy labs

Another useful tool for shaping more human-centered policy is through policy labs, which are collaborative spaces where experts work together to develop and test new ideas for improving policies. They provide a hands-on approach to solving real-world problems through innovation and experimentation.

“Across the globe, the policy labs concept has proved to be a powerful catalyst for enabling and facilitating the integration of service design principles in public sector policy making. These labs are purposefully created hub environments for incorporating service design methodologies into the process of developing and testing new policy interventions,” according to the report.

 Public activities that policy labs often engage in, %

Source: Sia Partners. Figure: Public activities that policy labs often engage in, %.

One successful example is The Policy Lab, established in 2014 by the UK Cabinet Office with the aim of developing innovative policy solutions that take into account the needs and aspirations of citizens. The UK labs have been used in the design of over 200 complex policy solutions, mostly to do with public health.

Reaping the benefits

“The application of service design in public policy offers significant opportunities for innovation and improvement. Incorporating it at strategic, operational, service and evaluation levels, permits policymakers to drive change that is transformative,” said the report.

However, to fully leverage the benefits of service design, leaders are advised to champion a number of best practices, foster an environment that encourages service design-led practice, and build high-trust relationships among stakeholders.

The World Governments Summit, which ran from 12 to 14 February in Dubai, brought together leaders from around the world, including 20 heads of state and 250 ministers, to discuss future-focused topics. Incepted in 2013, the summit has evolved to cover themes such as smart cities, sustainability, and artificial intelligence, aiming to shape the future of governments through global collaboration.