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Weekly Brief: Six Principles for Closing the Public Policy Impact Gap

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Weekly Brief: Six Principles for Closing the Public Policy Impact Gap

To BCG’s network around the world,

In 2015, the founder of BCG’s Public Sector practice, Larry Kamener, approached me with a bold and unexpected idea: to form a not-for-profit foundation for the first time in our 50-plus-year history. He observed the need to create a safe and creative space where government leaders could rethink how they design, deliver, and regulate policies and services. It’s been fascinating to watch the Centre for Public Impact do just that, providing a way to learn from public sector pioneers around the world who are finding ways to reimagine government so that it works for everyone.

This past year brought into sharp focus the urgency of CPI’s core mission: helping to close the dangerous gap between policy goals and public impact.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the lack of public sector effectiveness in many parts of the world, increasing public mistrust. Yet while the failures during this period were damaging, they also sparked a culture of learning and innovation. Government leaders were forced to quickly experiment with PPE production and new testing models, as well as vaccine development and equitable distribution, while balancing the need to enforce social distancing with the economic and emotional well-being of the public.

Over the course of nearly six years, CPI has convened conversations and partnered with public sector innovators from more than 120 countries, as well as with international organizations, including the OECD, UNDP, and the World Bank. Through that work, it has identified the following six principles that underpin the most effective and trust-building government approaches. To close the public impact gap, government leaders need to:

  • Think systemically, act locally. Government actions should be informed by an awareness of the system but should focus on encouraging local ownership.
  • Share power with those best placed to act. Delegate decision-making rights to those with the information and agency to make a difference.
  • Challenge unnecessary hierarchy and collaborate across boundaries. Where possible, encourage multidisciplinary teams working within flat structures.
  • Seek out strengths and build on them. This helps create a more positive foundation for change.
  • Champion the voices of those who are heard the least. This helps to promote diversity of thought and create a more inclusive conversation.
  • Optimize for learning rather than control. The capacity of the system to learn is essential to delivering impact and maintaining resilience.

CPI now works as a learning partner for governments, helping them put these principles into practice. As I’ve witnessed the effects of its partnerships—with the Rockefeller Foundation on pandemic response, with Prince William on the Earthshot Prize, with Bloomberg to design urban innovation competitions, and more—I’ve been struck by the ways in which CPI supports and champions the diverse network of changemakers shaping a new future for government.

I am immensely proud of CPI and everything it’s doing to push boundaries, challenging leaders not only to confront what government needs to do but reimagine what government can be. As Adrian Brown, CPI’s dynamic leader, puts it, “People everywhere are demanding change. CPI is honored to support public leaders who are embracing an open, learning mindset, so that together we can build a world that is more equitable, sustainable, and supportive of human flourishing.”

Until next week,

Rich Lesser
Chief Executive Officer

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Recasting Government in the Wake of COVID-19
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