It was amazing seeing our model of great policy advice brought to life by four passionate secretaries and the 235 people who attended. On the day we had interactive booths, sketching and engagement masterclasses, and policy readiness towers. We also heard from four of our secretary champions – Dr Heather Smith PSM, Mike Mrdak AO, Renée Leon PSM and Frances Adamson. The Public Sector Innovation Network (PSIN) did a fabulous write-up on what the secretaries had to say. Check out the PSIN article here.
Hearing secretaries talk about our co-designed elements of great policy advice – clear on intent, well informed, practical to implement and influential – left us feeling inspired about our future APS! But what made us really excited was what we learnt from you. We heard tools and skills are useful, but you are also seeking support in changing certain cultures and mindsets. Of course this is easier said than done, but we are determined and ready to work with you to make this happen.
And that’s just scratching the surface…each of our booths brought us new insights and ideas to challenge and reflect upon. Some favourites are below:
Clear on intent - What you shared:
- We heard about the value of a short and sharp problem statement – both to refine your understanding and to communicate it clearly to others. ‘If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it.’
- There was acknowledgement that getting clear on intent can be difficult. It’s hard to juggle being responsive with deeply exploring an issue, and tempting to quickly jump to a solution.
- People shared their tips for getting clear on intent, focusing on practical things we could do right now in our current roles. The most popular tips were about bringing other people in – to help frame the problem, to understand who the policy might impact, and to ask questions to understand the ‘why’.
Well informed - What you shared:
- People want to get information from a diverse range of sources and work collaboratively. Sometimes they feel they don’t have the time or permission to try it in practice, even though it is seen as ‘the right thing to do’.
- Some people were keen to connect with experts but didn’t really know who to contact or they felt others might not want to hear from them.
- We heard some conversations about the challenges in talking to implementers. ‘We know that talking to implementers is the right thing to do, so we said we do it- but in real life, we don’t really do it. At least not as much as we should’.
- We also heard people want more practical tools and resources, which is great because that’s what we want too!
Practical to Implement - What you shared:
- There are barriers to job swaps, there is a desire to step outside current roles, but people don't know how to make it happen. Some people shared the benefits of being able to change roles between implementation and policy in becoming more rounded public servants.
- It’s worth making time to build and maintain relationships with implementers and having supportive structures to reinforce them.
- As a policy officer, it’s helpful to see yourself as the facilitator, not the expert.
- Consider activities centred on citizen engagement and work on people's willingness to pilot and test things, including new approaches.
Influential - What you shared:
- The importance of being brave - you should never leave a room regretting you didn’t say what you wanted to say.
- The power of being authentic and humble when delivering your advice.
- Stories and anecdotes have longevity and influence – people will remember the story long after they have forgotten the data.
- Keep an eye open to the window of opportunity, and think about different ways of presenting for impact.