Content generously provided by Kristyn Oldendorf, Policy Analyst at Baltimore City Department of Public Works.
When a local government authority identifies the need to update or create a new policy, it will need a plan to develop, test, publicise, implement, and evaluate that policy.
Following the steps below will help avoid unintended consequences, such as people becoming confused or disinterested.
The Department(s) proposing the change, and/or implementing the change, will most likely lead the effort. They are usually supported by council leaders and the offices of legal, finance, human resources, and any other entities that are identified to assist. Together, these entities comprise an ‘implementation team.’
Process Flow for Local Government to Create and Implement a New Policy or Project
The phases listed here are not to be taken as a strict timeline but should rather be considered as the overall process. Some of the steps should be undertaken simultaneously. Depending on the type of change, some steps may come before others. The implementation team should strategically determine how and when each step is to be taken. Project management skills and tools are helpful in this process.
- ASSESS THE OPTIONS: Explore any alternatives to the proposed policy and choose the approach that best addresses the need and can be implemented with the available resources.
- Engage stakeholders in this process to determine which approach actually does best meet the needs of those involved.
- Consider the feasibility of each option considering the available staffing, funding and other resources. Try to consider any side effects that may arise.
- PLAN TIME FOR REVIEW: Identify whether the chosen project or policy requires public review, Council approval, or any other official review and adoption process.
- If so, develop a timeframe and actionable steps to move the policy through this process. This includes making a timetable for the drafting, review, publication, public review process, and any other necessary steps.
- ENGAGE AND LISTEN: Speak with other stakeholders to inform them and receive their feedback about the proposed change.
- Determine how comments can be submitted and ensure that stakeholders understand how to submit comments. Depending on the type of policy, the comments may need to be in writing and formally submitted, may be given less formally in meetings, or may be a combination. Whatever is decided needs to be determined in advance and communicated.
- The Council members and other elected officials should be briefed on the change, including why it is necessary, and be given the opportunity to give input. If they will need to officially approve the policy, this step is critical. Even if such approval is not required, this step is important to receive their support and assistance with spreading the information to their constituents.
- Identify others who will be impacted by the new policy, such as: property owners, residents, business owners, institutions, industries, etc. Inform them of the reasons for and impact of the change and provide them the opportunity to share input which could be incorporated into the policy/project.
- Identify any groups, organizations, or individuals that can assist with communicating to these stakeholders. For example, the Chamber of Commerce or other business associations can assist with engaging the business community. The health office could assist with outreach to hospitals and health centers, the education office could assist with outreach to schools, etc. Local advocacy groups may also be able to assist with engaging stakeholders.
- Publicize written documentation about the change in both hard copy and soft copy. Post a hard copy in public locations in a manner that is clearly visible. In addition, make a soft copy available online and available to be emailed to stakeholders. In addition to an explanation of the change, provide details on how stakeholders can provide comments and provide details about any public meetings or hearings to be held.
- Hold public meeting(s) and/or hearing(s) to explain the changes and gather input. If needed, the engage the private sector, institutions, non-profit organizations, or other partners to assist with hosting the event.
- If required, the change should be publicized in the newspapers or other widespread media. Even if not required, this step should be considered. If budget is an issue, consider utilizing Public Service Announcements (PSAs) or other donations of free advertising.
- EMPOWER AND UPSKILL: Implement employee engagement and training.
- If the proposed policy/program impacts local government employees, engage those employees throughout the process to ensure their understanding of the reason for the change and how it will impact their work. Employees can also be advocates for the new policy/procedure and help to explain it to the public.
- If there are significant operational, procedural, or technical changes to the work of the employees, offer trainings or workshops. Identify they type of training needed, which employees should participate, and who will conduct the training.
- Create talking points or handouts so that employees are able to accurately and easily explain the new policy/program to the public. Consider holding an information session to brief employees about the changes.
- It may be necessary to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to outline the flow of work and the procedures for the employees.
- The Human Resources Office is critical for supporting employees during this change. If the new policy requires changes to job functions, the Human Resources Office would need to assist with modifying the job descriptions and consider the need to increase compensation for those employees.
- If the employees involved belong to a labor union or other type of organized group, the leadership of that group needs to be involved early in the process to request their support and answer their concerns.
- CONSIDER ALL FEEDBACK: Consider comments received and consider their incorporation.
- During and after the process of engaging stakeholders, keep note of the feedback and suggestions received.
- Review the comments to determine which, if any, should be incorporated into the proposed policy or project.
- If the policy needs to be adopted by elected officials or committees, discussions of any changes to be made should occur in a public setting.
- Consider producing a comment response document. After the stakeholder engagement period or Public Comment Period is complete and the comments are analyzed, the members who review the comments should record their decision on each comment and this should be publicized. This comment response documentcreates a transparent means to communicate to those who submitted comments that their comments were actually considered and to explain why they were or were not incorporated.
- FINALIZE AND PUBLICIZE: Create the final plan, adopt it, and publicize it.
- After proposed plan or policy is amended to incorporate the comments or other feedback it can then be finalized. If the plan or policy requires formal approval from the Councilors, Mayor, City Director, or others, this should be undertaken according to the process in place.
- Publicize the document in its final form, both in hard copy and soft copy. The steps outlined under the “stakeholder engagement” phase can also be utilized in this phase.
- IMPLEMENT THE PLAN: Create implementation strategy or plan.
- During the steps outlined above, the actual implementation of the proposal always needs to be The policy makers and stakeholders should visualize how the proposed change will work in practice and try to foresee any conflict, barriers to implementation, or side effects that may arise.
- Depending on the nature of the new policy or process, consider producing a detailed plan/guidance document explaining how the changes are to be implemented.
- EVALUATE PROGRESS: Create and Begin Implementing an Evaluation and Performance Plan.
- Evaluation of the impact of the policy is important, especially if any loans or grants are used for the The record of its impact will assist with securing financing in the future to support of expand this project or policy.
- Identify indicator of success, metrics, goals for success, etc.
- Evaluation can include gathering statistics and other data, conducting polls of stakeholder satisfaction, or other indicators.
- Before the policy is adopted and implemented, decide whether before-and-after comparisons will be part of the evaluation/performance plan so that the “before” data can be gathered.
- If the metrics will use data that is not currently collected, the team will need to determine how that data will be collected going forward.
- Designate a person, team, or office with the task of gathering the performance data/indictors, and analyzing it as the project moves forward.
- COMMUNICATE THROUGH EXISTING NETWORKS: Create and Implement a Communications Plan for the change.
- Once the policy or project is ready to be implemented, create materials and a message to clearly communicate the main reasons for the change and its impacts.
- Share the message with stakeholders and all who should be aware. The Communications Office can assist with creating a communications plan. Take into account the intended audience and the budget and staff time available to spread the message, when forming a strategy for communicating the message. Utilize existing networks and partners to share the message.
- Elected officials and community organizations can assist with sharing the information at the community level.
- Umbrella organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, can assist with spreading the message to their constituencies.
- Large businesses and institutions can be partners to share the information with their employees, students, patients, customers, visitors, etc.
- Utilize the city website, PSAs, loudspeakers, public announcements, and other mass communications methods to share the key points with a wider audience.
- KEEP IMPROVING: Continue evaluating and revising as time goes on.
- Once the plan or policy is implemented, the day to day operations will reveal challenges and unclear areas to be taken into account. These can be handled as they arise but if major or consistent challenges arise, consider making changes where needed. This may require a change to the policy itself (the bylaw, plan, etc.) or it may be a more simple procedural change.
- If it is decided amend the official policy, determine who it should be communicated to and how.
- As described in the phase “Create and Begin an Evaluation and Performance Plan,” it is important to evaluate the impact of the new policy. This evaluation can be used not only to justify the change but also to continuing improving and to inform decisions going forward.
ENJOY your wonderful new policy change!
Kristyn produced this process flow while working in Mbeya, Tanzania as a Solid Waste Policy Reform Expert Volunteer through the USAID Feed the Future program Enabling Growth Through Investment and Enterprise. The main goals of her work were to facilitate public private dialogue, particularly around policies and regulations related to the waste sector, and to enhance the capacity of the private sector to be involved with waste management, including collection and processing. Read Kristyn’s blog.