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Policy making steps
No one can single-handedly solve long-term unemployment. But the many could.
Unemployment is a textbook complex issue that governments everywhere have to graple with. It’s a problem that unravels the very fabric of society, leaving millions of citizens less wealthy, less healthy, and more isolated and politically disillusioned.
This case study shows how to tap into a key source of policy learning and the dissemination of policy innovations: ideas outside public administration. It also examines how and when the state should provide a nurturing and structured environment for innovation to flourish.
A protracted public challenge, long-term unemployment, found an unexpected solution thanks to a civil society group that observed, remembered, and pushed for a policy experiment. Several thousand people were pulled out of protracted unemployment. Among the cities participating in the experiment, 3 out of 10 eradicated long term unemployment; 7 out of 10 reduced it by 50%. 200 similar project exist today, each getting on average 100 people back on the job market.
While developing it, French public administration developed a new legal framework – and culture – to experiment new policy approaches. This is now a key tool in the public servant’s toolbox: setting up small experiments with controls.
Solutions were cultivated with a balance of decentralization and hierarchy. A decentralized approach offers several advantages: the actors know each other and can interact more easily; errors have lesser consequences; complexity is partially reduced; creativity will be more easily recognized and its promoters rewarded.
When experimenting in the public sector, it is crucial that local teams work not in isolation, but are supported by a determined center with resources to document the experiments, reward and share solutions. In the case of the “zero long-term unemployment territories”, French national authorities provided:
Policy learning and dissemination: Policy learning refers to the process by which policymakers and other stakeholders acquire knowledge and experience that can inform the development and implementation of public policies. Ideas and know-how spread across different venues when agents are encouraged to share their knowledge and experience.
Experimentation involves testing new policy interventions in a controlled setting to evaluate their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.
Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS):
Complex adaptive systems organise interacting and interdependent agents that operate according to simple rules and are able to adapt and evolve over time. These systems can be found in nature, such as ecosystems, and in human society, such as economies, organizations, and even democracies.
Democracy itself is a complex adaptive system: it involves the interaction of many individuals with varying opinions, beliefs, and interests. In a democratic society, individuals are able to express their views, and the collective decision-making process is often more effective and efficient than decisions made by a single individual or a small group. As individuals interact and share information, new ideas can emerge, and the system can become more intelligent as a result.
Agile governance and orchestrated government:
Different forms of governance place the emphasis for public authorities on nurturing the conditions for social, policy and political innovation. Key features of such approaches include decentralization combined with central services, enabling and rewarding experimentation, and a culture of adaptation.
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