IPANZ spoke to a few of the people at the “front line”, people beginning to lead the implementation of long-term insights briefings in different departments. Here are some of their thoughts.
Overall, there is a sense of optimism and excitement tinged with trepidation. These briefings are new and challenging. They are not just another accountability document and should not be treated as such. Being new, it is an experiment and opportunity to learn. If it does not make the difference hoped for, improvements can be made through evaluating and learning and adapting. The theory, expressed in the guidance, is good; the actual practice is yet to be revealed.
A few of the questions being asked include:
- Will priority be given to this work? All departments are busy with current urgent work. Cross-cutting work is time-consuming and complex. Public servants working on the briefings know they must have an opportunity to think their way into this work. So much is inherently connected. Some departments will be contributing to multiple briefings with all this involves. The hope is that there is a genuine commitment put on this work by senior leaders across the system.
- How will the cross-cutting leadership of accountability operate? Departments tend to be practised at doing the work for which they are accountable. The management of these briefings will be different, perhaps with departments both leading and following at different times and in different areas. This work across systems, managing policy foresight, is not yet established as a way of working, making these briefings a significant opportunity.
- Will insights that conflict with current policies be fully expressed? If done properly, there will be issues raised in these briefings that may not be well-attuned to the current political context. There may be insights that do not support decisions and strategies expressed by the government of the day as these briefings look many years out. It may require courage to raise these issues and to try to ensure that they are not diluted.
- Will these briefings really make a difference? There is considerable hope that these briefings will produce new information and that they will have a tangible impact on policy thinking across the system. Everyone involved in this work wants it to make a real difference.