Research report


Rapidly changing operating environments of governments and stakeholders threaten to outdate policy practices. Emerging technologies, fluid political preferences, shifting societal attitudes—including a declining level of trust in public institutions (Edelman 2017)—are transforming our world.

Ever greater change and a less predictable future create an increasingly complex and highly contested public policy landscape. Policymakers need to adopt fresh ways of thinking, develop new skills and access innovative tools to succeed in this dynamic environment.

Enabling access to innovative policy ideas can benefit policymakers and stakeholders through:

• providing new ways to frame problems and devise novel solutions

• improving connectivity between all stages of the policy cycle

• increasing preparedness for developments that warrant government intervention

• allowing greater transparency, flexibility and robustness of policy processes to meet stakeholder expectations.

Our report looks globally for innovative approaches that can serve as a resource for policymakers to meet these emerging challenges. It builds on, rather than duplicates, resources already in the public domain, such as the report Embracing innovation in government: global trends from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 2017). We analysed our findings for their applicability to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Australian Public Service and policymaking more broadly.

When talking about policy in this report, we do so with its broadest possible meaning—capturing all stages of the policy cycle from agenda setting, analysis and policy design through to implementation, regulation and compliance.

The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

• our future environment and the drivers for innovative policy

• interpreting innovation for policy and government

• approach to the research task

• findings categorised into three themes of new thinking, new skills and new tools

• a discussion on unlocking innovation, through considerations of governance, capability and risk.

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