Workshops to Improve Institutional Decision-Making in Government

post by Jan-WillemvanPutten · 2021-07-28T17:39:39.474Z · EA · GW · 2 comments

Contents

  Intro
  Methods
  Key Learnings
  Discussion (Limitations)
  Future Work/Upcoming
  Acknowledgements
None
2 comments

Intro

Recent EA forum posts have pointed out low momentum in initiatives to improve institutional decision-making (IIDM) relative to other cause areas (e.g. this post [EA · GW]). We agree; we see IIDM as an especially important cause area because it can guide governing organizations around the world to understand and react to the subjects of priority cause areas. Small changes at high-impact institutions can amplify and also initiate systemic change.

Over the last year, a small group of us affiliated with EA Netherlands have put together a series of workshops for policymakers in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to introduce analytical frameworks and concepts to improve their decision-making. This work is based on evidence, several rounds of content-based feedback and iterations, and crafted to fit in a framework that would solicit ministry buy-in. In January, we launched a 10-month long ‘Impact Challenge’ at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and are now roughly halfway through. The program guides civil servants in a process to come up with their own solutions for obstacles and challenges they encounter in their work to increase the impact of their organization. At this stage we have secured full funding thanks to co-financing by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the EA Infrastructure Fund to fully execute this pilot at strength. We are looking forward to hopefully show positive results at the end of the year on how this Challenge can contribute to Improving Institutional Decision-Making. 

In this post, we want to share what we are doing including some of the core ideas we are delivering, some lessons we have learned, and our future plans.

 

Methods

We started the project with the intent to create and deliver workshops for policy makers in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Since one of our team members works within the MFA, we were able to pitch the idea internally. The core idea was to change the paradigm of decision-making to be more evidence and data-driven, transparent and designed to reduce bias. We started by compiling topics from our own experience and also carried out seven in-depth interviews with civil servants across the MFA, who were selected to have diverse age, experience, and domain backgrounds in hopes of identifying broader themes.

After multiple iterations of drafting, testing, and incorporating feedback from community members and civil servants of the MFA, we decided to organize an ‘Impact Challenge’ at the Ministry in which two workshops we had developed would be incorporated. Civil servants signed up to learn key concepts about increasing policy impact; improving decision-making processes and increasing personal effectiveness. The next step for participants is to start developing their own ideas, inspired by the key concepts of the workshops, on how to increase impact within the Ministry. After 10 months of researching, testing and developing solutions for key challenges in the organization each team presents their proposal after which a judge decides upon the best recommendation. 

We developed the key concepts based on our own experiences, reading and based on feedback from EA community members like Max Stauffer (CEO of the Simon Institute for Longterm Governance [EA · GW]) and Sophie Dannreuther, who has championed work in HIPE and founder of the Centre for Long-Term Resilience. We also drew from materials that HIPE developed as we had a similar target group and identified analytical tools that would complement these concepts; we thought it would be most impactful to give participants explicit takeaways they could implement in addition to concepts. This was also the result of feedback from the Ministry – to bridge theory and concept. We also proactively engaged relevant teams within the Ministry who were working on achieving the same objectives: increase policy impact and improve decision-making. Two different departments provided guest lectures to participants to share their experience and offer on this topic. 

Key Concepts

Tools

Of note is that while we weaved EA concepts throughout the content, we chose to only briefly introduce participants to the EA context. We wanted to focus on the substance of the topics as professional development rather than the philosophical principles underlying them so as to not imply any political or philosophical affiliations (and by extension, biases or perception of advocacy or lobbying). Therefore, we presented this initiative as one of our group, the “Impactmakers”.

 

Key Learnings

With all of the workshops now delivered and being halfway through the project, we wanted to share some of our key learnings. We hope this can be useful for other community members who are interested in IIDM to, for instance, adapt our project for their own contexts.

 

Discussion (Limitations)

 

Future Work/Upcoming

 

Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge that this project is funded by the EA META/Infrastructure Fund of the Centre for Effective Altruism and the time of volunteers in crafting content, translating, and organizing logistics. We also want to thank Max Stauffer and Sophie Dannreuther for all the advice. The core group of this project is composed of the following five individuals; feel free to reach out to us if you have questions or comments!

2 comments

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comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2021-08-02T09:17:48.774Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

If you find that some of the people you work with actually apply these lessons in their own work, this may be one of the most exciting active projects in the community! I hope you'll keep sharing updates on the Forum.

comment by Achim · 2021-08-10T08:51:36.156Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is really interesting. Thanks for the report.