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Policy Methods Toolbox

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The Policy Methods Toolbox is a repository of policy development methods that helps policy practitioners identify and select the right approach for their policy initiative.
It is organised into four themes:
Start Right: a light touch approach to making the best start in policy projects.
Behavioural insights: the study of human behaviour, often drawing upon the empirical research in fields including economics, psychology and sociology.
Design thinking: also known as human-centred design, co-design and participatory design.
Public participation: engaging individuals and groups in the process of policy design and development, including the provision of information, consultation, collaboration and participatory decision-making.

About this resource


New Zealand

Date Published


Copyrighted-All rights reserved


Web-based resource

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8 reviews for "Policy Methods Toolbox"

  1. Nikola says:

    I was fortunate to use this toolkit when I was working on a case study with a few students on trying to change a country’s driving from left to right. Its different stages namely commissioning conversations, exploration, and the green light procedure, were all fundamental for us to identify stakeholders, objectives, and to be capable of iterating and refining the issue at stake. It is an excellent toolkit for someone who is about to start a new policy project, and I recommend it strongly for public decision-makers. One of its limitations was the fact that it cannot be implemented for policy implementations that are large in scale, but it can, of course, scale down to suit the project at hand.

    We also looked about other similar toolkits provided by other governmental websites such as the Australian and the British government, but we found this toolkit to be the most all-encompassing in delivering our policy recommendation for our project.

  2. The Policy Method Toolbox, provided by the New Zealand Government, offers a non-exhaustive list of approaches to policy analysis before its implementation. It is very useful to start thinking about policy in two ways.
    Firstly, with its Start Right Guide, the toolbox provides a multifaceted overview of how to ‘get the green light’ for a policy. It reminds us of the main questions to be asked to ensure all of the facets of a policy are considered before its proposal. These can appear to be extremely valuable for new policy makers which need a supporting framework to think about their policy, but also for experienced policy makers which could find insights they might have overlooked if they have a well consolidated way of thinking about policies.
    The Toolkit will give less directions on other steps of a policy such as its implementation or its evaluation but will provide a wide variety of resources from case studies to other toolkits to be used for different approaches to explore the policy and think of it more creatively than some might be used to. These include behavioural insights, design thinking, and community engagement. They are particularly useful because each section provides a well organised overview of the approach which will state for what purposes an approach can be used, its limitations, what are the ideal circumstances for its use and more.
    However, the structure might be quite confusing at first and it takes some time to understand how to make the most out of it. One should be aware that it is very general and ought to be used as a starting point for more research on a specific area. This is why this Toolkit shouldn’t be used on its own as it might overlook some detailed information on some approaches. This also entails that the Toolkit could be used by people not working in the public sector.

  3. The Policy Methods Toolkit and then in particular the Start Right toolkit has the goal to help you make the best start possible in a new policy project. This toolkit helped me and my colleagues very well in preparing a complicated, national infrastructural policy change.

    The toolkit navigates helped us to do this through three steps. The first step, ‘Commissioning Conversations’ or in other words the ‘Policy Initiation phase’ helped us to set out the scope and desired outcomes of the project within our team. If done well (i.e. if you are able to create the right atmosphere and norms), these first conversations will help to bring everyone on the same page right at start of the policy project. The second step, the ‘Exploration’, is a very important step that proved to be crucial in the preparation of our policy change process. When Exploring, you consider the main objectives and possibilities for your policy change and engage in conversations with all main stakeholders to learn about their interests and views on the potential policy. The insights gained in these stakeholder conversations helped us to refine our policy proposal and paved the way for a higher-quality policy and increased stakeholder participation and acceptance down the road. Reviewing all the insights and feedback gained from all our internal and external stakeholders, enabled us to do a final check in the third and last phase of the Start Right Toolkit, ‘the Green Light’. Although a bit vaguely explained by the Toolkit developers, this last step consisted for us out of doing a final gut check of our policy proposal before giving it a ‘Green Light’ for further development.

    On a policy-maker to policy-maker note, when using this toolkit, do not hesitate to mould the phases in such a way that they best fit your policy preparation process. Because our team was relatively small and already on the same page, we placed most emphasis on the Exploration phase, which proved to be an excellent decision given the limited time we had to prepare the policy.

  4. The Policy Methods Toolbox provides policy advisors and government agencies with six community engagement resources. Each of them comes with a detailed description of the theme with its goals, limitations, ideal circumstances of use, and provides useful tools and resources. For academic purposes, I worked on the topic of “Community Engagement” and used the associated tools – especially the Design Tool, which is aimed at helping policy advisors identify the level on the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Public participation” that suits a specific policy project.
    It is one of the only toolkits to be so inclusive, as it acknowledges engagement with Māori people (1.5 – “Framework and guidance for engagement with Māori”). New Zealand government pays particular care to their recognition, and this could inspire other policymakers in countries where indigenous people live (Australia, Brazil, France, to only name a few).
    The Design Tool helped me and my team to assess the Context, Scope, People and Purpose characterizing the policy issue we were working on, thanks to detailed questions to consider when defining each of these characteristics. The toolkit also provides a “Methods Matrix” helping the policymaker selecting the most adapted methods to match the community engagement needs, which my team and I found particularly inspiring.
    It might take some time to understand how the Design Tool works at first, but once the concept was understood, the “Community Engagement Design Tool template” made everything clear and more practical.

  5. The Start Right Toolkit, within the Policy Methods Toolbox, offers a very straight-forward, user-friendly and simple approach to the organisation of the first steps of a problem-solving. It puts an emphasis on the absolute necessity to set the right framework for further reflection. By making concertation and exploration sine qua non criteria to launching into further solutionising, it promotes an open and human-centered thinking in an accessible and non-pretentious way, assuring that all stakeholders and relevant elements are taken into account. It offers a smart scanning before the creation of a public policy by focusing on behaviours rather than on compliance.
    The 3 steps the toolkit puts forward are presented clearly and very succinctly. It is perfect for project leaders who cannot devote too much time to research and preparation but still need to innovate on solid foundations; these foundations being built on commissioning conversation, exploration and validation, they help to reach a solution and are part of the solution by fostering change through concertation, participation and inclusiveness.
    The short explanations of the steps are followed by overviews for each step of “What you will get out of it”, ‘Ideal circumstances for use”, and “Limitations”, which is nice information, but it would be more beneficial for users if the toolkit more clearly answered the question “how to get it done properly” rather than “what you get once it’s done”. Concrete tools, which seem to be missing, are actually given in the “Start Right Guidance” PDF, which is the real treasure of the toolkit and a perfect example of a nicely balanced and visual toolkit, but this file is not easily found as it is hidden at the very bottom of the page, and when I used the toolkit for a case study I did not find it. So the presentation of the toolkit is confusing because the secondary questions are very visible and the concrete tools are hard to find. It is a shame because the complementarity of its different elements makes the toolkit optimal as it offers progressivity and adaptability; simple straight-forward recommendations to organize the work very efficiently, followed by further concrete tools to be levered if the project leader has time to perfectionate the process.
    The toolkit is very adapted to public sector small and medium-scale projects, but it might not be adapted nor adaptable to large-scale projects combining numerous complex dynamics. It still remains a good guide. Indeed, it is light but also very easily articulated with other more complete toolkits if needed (ex: the Service Design first templates). Moreover, it is compatible with policy quality processes and impact analysis. It is very easy to use and to understand and no specific expertise is needed.

  6. The Policy Methods Toolbox offers a very broad spectrum of approaches when tackling an issue or a public policy contingent. I found “Start right” (one of the tools included) as very practical in a study case about the relationship between Education and Health and the new approaches that can be undertaken from governments via new Public policy action. Start right has 3 components: Commissioning conversations, explorations, and Green light. This step by step process offers a very broad view of the policy issue that is about to be tackled by one or a group of policy makers. It is very practical if you are just starting to work on a new project or/ and with an unfamiliar context. Personally, I feel that in my case, this process brought less repetition in the phases of work and clarity to the timeframes.

  7. Jules says:

    The Policy Methods Toolkit provides a three steps method thanks to Start right (Commissioning conversations, Exploration and Green Light) I used it personally for some university exercise which helped me to point out the first versions of projects.
    Behavioural insights help policymakers to identify behavioural bias and to tackle them by designing the policy around those factors. This is a method of shaping that allows to target a specific population or context in order to have an effective policy regarding the outcomes and the costs. It is an ancillary aid that enables public policies to be better designed, taking into account and anticipating details that could have major consequences in terms of outcomes.
    In addition to the toolkit, the New Zealand government offers a series of resources and related links useful in the context of behavioural insights (BASIC, MINDSPACE and EAST). One of the main drawbacks is that the information are spread over the website and are not gathered in a single document which could make it easier to use.

  8. This toolkit is a priceless resource to use if you plan to design a policy from the ground up. It intuitively allows policymakers to identify the components which make a successful public policy and eliminate components from a policy that, from a behavioral insights point of view, might dissuade citizens from following it. The toolkit’s initial phase also demonstrates how important it is to determine the scope and desired outcomes of a policy. Knowing whether or not a policy should get the green light and learning how to easily identify stakeholders were all pivotal in the design thinking process (which is also elucidated in the toolkit) and help us understand whether or not ideation is progressing in the right direction.

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