Agile Policy Making – A Toolkit

Policy toolkits abound. During the period 1997-2010, the UK Government provided several. One, from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, showed how to develop an evidence base for policy, based on reviews of ‘what works’. There was also a toolkit concerned with international policy comparisons, assessing ‘what works elsewhere’. This was meant to guide officials and policy analysts as to how, starting from a particular domestic policy problem, they might best identify other countries whose experience is of particular interest.

These toolkits tend to assume a stable environment and well-defined policy problems. They may be less appropriate in uncertain and turbulent conditions. Here therefore we offer a toolkit of eight elements for the practice of ‘agile policy-making’.


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The eight elements of the toolkit should not be seen as .a simple linear sequence. They must be used iteratively: not just in the sense of being ready to go through the sequence again and again, but more fundamentally allowing each element to co-evolve with the others. The toolkit decomposes the complex process of policy making into eight sub-processes, so as to render them practically manageable, but the agile policy maker must continuously weave them together, adapting them to specific situations. The toolkit is therefore only provisional. Users must hone and re-work it, as their own particular circumstances demand.

The toolkit builds on the conceptual, methodological and policy approaches developed in Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy. It may help if we recall their key points.