Q1- What is the mission of the Centre for Public Impact?
We want to improve the positive impact that governments have on their citizens. We believe in the power of government to improve citizens’ lives, and we have embarked on a journey to support governments and their partners reach the outcomes they set out to achieve. In order to do so, we act as a place where people meet to discuss public impact and share their insight, a trusted expert voice and source of insight on public impact themes, a source of practical tools and advice on how to improve public impact as well as a partner to organisations seeking to improve or promote public impact.
Q2 – You maintain a database of public policy case studies. What have you learned so far by analysing hundreds of examples of public policy succeeding or failing?
By analysing over 300 public policies from across the globe, we developed our proprietary framework, the Public Impact Fundamentals. The Fundamentals are 9 elements that we have found over and over again to be crucial for a policy’s success. We cluster the 9 elements into three overarching elements: Legitimacy, Policy and Action. Legitimacy means the support for and confidence in the initiative from the general public, stakeholders and the political landscape. Policy stands for the initiative itself: are its objectives clear, is there evidence to support it and is it feasible? Lastly, Action stands for the implementation of a policy: are results measured, are there management mechanisms to ensure that the policy is implemented well and that results are fed back into it, and are all actors aligned on the implementation of the policy?
This does not mean that success is guaranteed, but if a policy does well on all elements of the Fundamentals, we believe that its chances for success are higher than if it didn’t.
Q3 – What are the key lessons for future policy work?
There are many lessons that we have learned over time – and many iterations have been made to our models and tools as a result of it -, but two important ones would be to not neglect legitimacy and to not be afraid to ask questions and learn from others.
Firstly, out of the three high-level elements of the Fundamentals, Legitimacy has proven to be the one most likely to be forgotten. Many governments have started to focus extensively on policies itself, using evidence to inform decisions and setting clear targets. Similarly, delivery units that focus on implementation have gained popularity within many public sectors. Legitimacy, or the extent to which a policy gets support from across the spectrum of citizens, stakeholders and politicians, is still under-researched, and often neglected to the detriment of a policy’s impact.
Secondly, one of the reasons we curate the Public Impact Observatory is to enable governments to learn from each other. There are a myriad of great ideas and initiatives out there, and hours and hours of collective learning. However, too often, initiatives are carried out in silos, and especially policy failures do not get communicated to the outside. Instead of repeating each other’s mistakes, we at CPI believe it is important to share good practices, what has worked and what hasn’t and why. Of course, context matters, and initiatives can never be copied 1:1, but learnings are often universal, and talking to each other can drastically improve chances of success.
Q4 – Can AI be used for governments to improve their effectiveness and perhaps create a fairer world?
Yes, we believe that AI-powered tools have the potential to improve outcomes for citizens and eventually create a fairer world. To take just two existing examples, AI is already being used to find tax fraud – hence increasing governments’ budgets – and identify students at risk of dropping out of school, hence helping teachers to target students at risk and motivate them to carry on with education. However, as with all powerful tools, so-called Artificial Intelligence applications also carry a number of risks, many of which are significant and have the potential to massively deteriorate citizens’ lives. The potential goes both ways, and we believe that governments need to be aware of both these aspects – as well as the risks entailed with doing nothing – if they are to succeed in the future. Furthermore, there is a need for appropriate governance frameworks around the use of AI in the public sector, something which not many governments have outlined yet.
Margot Gagliani, Junior Programme Associate. Centre for Public Impact. A BCG Foundation
Margot graduated with an MSc in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford before joining CPI. Previously, she studied Business and Economics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Chile. Her interests include health policy, labour market institutions and workers’ rights in the 21st century.