Call for feedback and input on longterm policy book proposal

post by maxime · 2020-07-07T15:20:00.854Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · EA · GW · 6 comments

Contents

  Goal
  Audience
  Sources
  Title
  Abstract
  Table of content
None
6 comments

Konrad Seifert and I are writing “a field guide to place future generations at the core of policy-making”. To make it maximally relevant to the EA community, please, ask us related questions, share criticism and give feedback on the current version of the book proposal.

Let us know your thoughts, questions and feedback in the comments or via email max@eageneva.org by 31 July 2020. Thank you in advance!

Read the full proposal here (~2700 words). Or get a quick overview below:

Goal

Longtermist scholarship still needs to translate its ideas into policy change to achieve large-scale impact. Our book has two goals:

  1. Foster coordination and alignment among longtermist policy practitioners by equipping them with (1) models to understand policy-systems; (2) tactics to engage in policy-making; (3) strategies to improve political decision-making; and (4) an agenda for further research.
  2. Provide evidence-based advice for robustly beneficial policy engagement by combining insights from senior practitioners with the research on social and behavioural processes of policy-making.

Audience

The target audience consists of policy practitioners, inside and outside of government, and scholars of the policy process.

Sources

Title

Longterm Political Decision-making: A Field Guide to Place Future Generations at the Core of Policy-making

Abstract

Human civilization faces risks, such as large scale pandemics and climate change, which likely have harmful consequences for future generations, ranging from complete extinction to curtailed potential. For civilization to survive and flourish, political institutions play an important role in building resilient systems through large-scale coordinated action. Yet, future generations are currently neglected in policy-making due to historical path-dependencies and practical difficulties. This book builds on forty years of research developing policy mechanisms to represent future generations. Specifically, the book fills a gap between research and action by providing guidance on (1) understanding policy systems; (2) beneficially engaging in policy-making; and (3) designing strategies to strengthen decision-making. Geared towards policy-makers and academics, the book provides directions for further research and practice.

Table of content

Introduction

Chapter 1: A rationale for longtermist political decision-making

  1. What is longtermism?
  2. Why are political institutions key to safeguard future generations?
  3. Why are current political institutions short-termist?
  4. Policy problems, solutions and institutional mechanisms for making policy-making longtermist
  5. What is needed to convert ideas into policy change?

Chapter 2: Understanding the reality of policy-making

  1. Definitions and illustrations
    1. What is policy?
    2. What is policy-making?
    3. What is governance?
    4. What are political institutions?
    5. What is political decision-making?
  2. Understanding policy-making as a system
  3. System’s moving parts
    1. Policy actors
    2. Political behaviour
    3. Policy networks
    4. Policy environments
  4. Mechanisms of policy change
    1. What do we know about the dynamics of policy change?
    2. How do collective decisions emerge from the interactions of moving parts?
    3. How do individuals, groups and institutions learn over time?
  5. Levers to influence policy-making
    1. Influence the information supply
    2. Shape information processing
    3. Change network structures
    4. Change system rules

Chapter 3: Engaging in policy-making: evidence from advocacy, lobbying and epistemic communities

  1. What can we learn from the literature on influencing policy-making?
  2. Methodology
  3. Evidence strength
  4. Themes
    1. Definitions of and differences between advocacy, lobbying and epistemic communities
    2. Impact pathways for influencing policy-making
    3. Enabling conditions to instrumentalise impact pathways
    4. Strategy
    5. Tactics
    6. The importance of networks
    7. The importance of framing
    8. Remarks on evidence-based advocacy
    9. Ethics
    10. Monitoring evaluation and learning
  5. A framework to robustly engage in policy-making
    1. Define the context: the fit between entry points and what to advocate for
    2. Understand policy processes and contexts
    3. Choose a coordinated, insider, collaborative and multi-level strategy
    4. Network network, frame frame
    5. Cultivate pragmatism to hedge against idealism
    6. Preserve, adjust and sustain
  6. Limitations

Chapter 4: A quasi-systematic review of four strategies to strengthen political decision-making

  1. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guardians themselves?
  2. Four strategies to strengthen political decision-making
    1. Multi-criteria decision analyses
    2. Serious games
    3. Nudging
    4. Diversity
  3. Methodology
  4. Results
    1. Search and review results
    2. Strength of evidence
    3. Strategy expected impact
  5. Limitations

Chapter 5: An agenda for research and practice for making policy-making longterm

  1. Studying policy-making
    1. Convergence of theories
    2. Current gaps
    3. Moving from static theories to computational models
    4. Exploring foundational laws of policy-making systems
  2. Influencing policy-making
    1. Trade-offs
    2. Risks
    3. Recommendations

Conclusion

6 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by weeatquince · 2020-07-10T08:00:17.103Z · score: 18 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Maxime and Konrad,

The target audience consists of policy practitioners, inside and outside of government, and scholars of the policy process.

I am going to give a reply from the point of view of a "policy practitioner", one of the intended groups of audiences for this book. I'm not familiar with "scholars of the policy process" so can't comment on the usefulness for them". I work very much in this space – promoting long-term policy making in the UK parliament.


Let us know your thoughts, questions and feedback in the comments

In short my immediate intuition is that this is medium-low value to policymakers and to me. Although this I would likely read this I doubt I would find it very useful to me.

As others have mentioned chapters 1 & 4-5 and chapters 2-3 seem like a different topics to be read for different reasons.


Chapters 2-3

I think to someone in policy the content of chapters 2-3 seems quite basic. It is stuff that I know (or at least like to think I know). This matches my experience of the EA Geneva research I have read to date: of accurate descriptions of the policy process but quite basic and not very insightful to someone who has worked in policy for a while.

I personally think I would find it interesting to explore an academics' take on policy and see how it compares to my own knowledge. However I wouldn't expect to gain much if anything from reading this. Might be more useful to policy makers more junior in their career as introductory material.


Chapters 1 & 4-5

Chapters 1 & 4-5 seems of mixed usefulness. Chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 4 seems useful but the rest of chapter 4 and chapter 5 seems to be written very much for academics trying to study the field.

  • Chapter 1. Seems good and interesting and I think policy makers would find this useful. That said this is all content covered elsewhere that I have read already (eg here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ra42MbUkvIjZPn-MJxVxUdpjK_5VLZ7lxUxBAmp3Ook/edit or https://www.appgfuturegenerations.com/research)
  • Chapter 4. Parts 1 and 2. Good. If done well, an analysis, literature review and exploration of these 4 diverse strategies would be very interesting.
  • Chapter 4. Parts 3 and 4. I understand this would be details of an experiment trying to compare these four strategies. These are not like for like things and decisions between them would be rare and based on many factors. I would be interested in maybe 1-2 pages of a book summarising this work but a detailed description of how someone has tried to compare them in this way seems like an intellectual academic exercise I would not be interested in. Somewhat judging this on your EA global talk.
  • Chapter 5. This looks like suggestions for academic research. This is not at all the research agenda I would take if I was trying to develop policy in this space within the next few years as a policy maker or think tank etc. It is very very theoretical based (computational models, fundamentals of policy making).


I hope that breakdown helps you refine this work. Just some initial thoughts. Happy to chat through and be constructive, especially if August works.



EDIT. Also if for a wider audience worth remembering that there are popular books on this or tangential to this. Like "The Precipice", "The Good Ancestor", "FutureGen", Will's next book, and a few others.

comment by weeatquince · 2020-07-10T15:51:57.222Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I also want to clarify my statement that this was "low-medium value" was based on the current plan – I think there is valuable stuff here that could be teased out to make this useful to people in policy.

A good book summarising the academic work on how policy is made, how change happens, how external influences work, mapping out the whole space and giving an overview and different perspectives could be really really useful.

I wouldn’t give up on this idea – just maybe develop it further – can talk more if useful.

comment by Charlotte (CharlotteSiegmann) · 2020-07-07T17:15:18.836Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Maxime and Konrad, thank you for your work and the post.

I have a question with regard to the structure of the book. It seems like from your summary and the longer description that chapter 2 &3,(4) are quite distinct from 1,4,5. While the former chapters are focused on policymaking/lobbying etc in general (taking shorttermist situations, longtermist problems as examples), the other 3 are more specifically about longtermist policies. Please correct me if I am wrong. Why did you decide to include them in the same publication? It seems to me that a policy maker (especially compared to a policy researcher) would be less fascinated by chapter 2 and 3 (at least at first glance ). Also, given that you mention influencing policy debates quite a lot, I was wondering why you don't want to specifically target advocacy groups or civil society.

comment by Khorton · 2020-07-07T20:59:36.319Z · score: 17 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yeah I was really surprised by this as well. As someone who already works in policy, I would be disappointed to pick up a book about long-termist policy making and find out that it's just explaining how my job works!

Even chapter 5 doesn't seem very clearly focused on long-termist policy rather than policy generally from this table of contents, but I'm probably not understanding the nuances.

comment by Jamie_Harris · 2020-07-07T21:42:29.016Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Admittedly I read Charlotte's comment before reading the full proposal but my main thoughts were: (1) Everything in the book looks really interesting and exciting and I'd be keen to read (or give more feedback on) the specifics in each chapter. (2) It didn't seem like the content of the different chapters was very clearly linked together. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since some books are structured like that (e.g. edited academic books, textbooks etc) but seems unusual for a short, self/co-authored books?

comment by henrycooksley · 2020-07-09T19:27:48.279Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I have not read the full proposal so I'm just commenting on this post.

I think you have a good selection of topics and that there is value in covering some of the policy basics if your aim is to also appeal to a larger audience who might not have the same background knowledge as an experienced policy professional.

On this: “The target audience consists of policy practitioners, inside and outside of government, and scholars of the policy process.” – this seems good. I can only mention the obvious point that iterated development is important and I believe these kinds of books do so much better with input from a wide range of people. I'm sure you already know this.

Others have commented on the flow and linkage of chapters with each other, so you are already aware, but I also agree with this point.

I'm interested to hear more and best of luck with the next phase of development!