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Participating in Federal Public Policy: A Guide for the Voluntary Sector

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Tips for building your organization's policy capacity
Once your organization has determined its role in developing a strategy for influencing public policy, you need to identify ways for improving the policy capacity of your organization. Four key capacity areas should be looked at:
  1. skill acquisition and development
  2. gathering knowledge and information
  3. identification and use of tools and resources
  4. climate and process for policy development and analysis

Skills of a Policy Analyst
  • analytical thinking
  • interpersonal
  • facilitation
  • leadership
  • communication
  • active listening
  • public speaking and presentation
  • clear, concise writing
1. Skill acquisition and development

Figuring out what your organization might need in terms of skills related to policy development can be difficult. There are some differences between the skills needed for internal organizational policy development and those needed to influence the public policy realm of government.

If you are looking to complement your organization's skills in the area of policy, do a quick inventory of your staff's, board's and volunteers' abilities to do policy work. It's likely you'll find that many of the necessary skills already exist within your organization, though they may not have been used for this purpose specifically in the past.

2. Gathering knowledge and information

Research is an essential component of policy analysis and strategy development. It is crucial that your organization is seen as credible and is able to back up what it knows from experience with sound evidence and research.

If you don't have research staff of your own, there are ways to find research assistance in most communities. Apply for project funding from government, a foundation or other funders to conduct research. Contact your nearest university or college - there are often students or faculty who are interested in conducting local research. Find out who has already done research on your issue and learn from them. Liaise with existing policy research organizations such as the Canadian Policy Research Networks (http://www.cprn.org) or the Caledon Institute of Social Policy (http://www.caledoninst.org) to find out what else is going on in the field.

Know more about your constituent group and about the issue than anyone else. Recognize that there is always more than one option in dealing with a problem. Understand the pros and cons of other options and be prepared to demonstrate why your chosen option is best.

Research and policy institutes exist to delve deeply into areas that affect public policy - the economy, social security, the environment, employment and more. The results of their research are often available on their Web sites or by mail. Many institutes are formed with a particular political, economic or social orientation and their research tends to reflect those philosophies. A list of Canadian research and policy institutes and lobby groups is included at the end of this module.

Stages of Policy Analysis
  • Identify and define problem or issue.
  • Gather information - collect expertise and evidence-based research.
  • Review existing policies and programs.
  • Refine policy priorities.
  • Develop policy options.
  • Identify policy alternatives.
  • Involve partners and players at the right time.
  • Conduct feasibility studies.
  • Recommend policy options.
  • Monitor and report on impact of policies.
  • Evaluate.
3. Identification and use of tools and resources

Before you start your research, you need to identify the tools and resources your organization might need to access in order to get the information you need. Module 4 explains the various approaches your organization might use to implement your strategy.

4. Climate and process for policy development and analysis

Another key question to ask your organization is whether the issue you're proposing to undertake fits into the mandate of government departments. While the issue may not yet be addressed in existing government programs and policies, it is easier to work on issues that fit within the mission and vision of government and departments. To find out the current mandate of the government, read the recent Red Books, Speeches from the Throne (SFT) commitments, comments from the Clerk of the Privy Council, federal Budgets and Deputy Ministers' Performance Agreement Corporate Priorities. Departments will focus their activities, programs and policies on these documents.

Once you have developed a strategy and conducted the necessary research, you must determine how your organization will influence public policy. The next module describes the specific approaches your organization can use to advance your position.

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Last Updated: 2019-11-15