What we need to do policy work well

Since its inception, the Policy Community Partnership Office has been working on articulating the Skills and Mindsets needed to do policy work now and in the future. This ongoing work has brought us to the eight skills & mindsets seen here and the metaphor of a garden.   

Why a garden?

A garden has many seeds. Some are just beginning and brimming with potential; some are sprouting with roots already established; some are in full bloom, and forming new seeds to pass on for the next season. To do this magical work, they need the right kind of soil, sunlight and water. And the gardener tends to them, observing the ecosystem and defining the scope, exerting the effort needed for the garden to thrive.  

As public policy practitioners, we learn and develop our skills and mindsets in contexts; influenced by team dynamics, organizational patterns, history, evolving perceptions and experience.  

Like gardeners, we are active agents in our own growth, capable of challenging our mental models and assumptions and seeing the systems that we are in. 

We are people-in-progress, always. In the right growing conditions as a community we can tend our way to a bountiful harvest that also replenishes the soil and generates seeds season after season.  

The Garden Metaphor

The Gardener

Gardeners do more than add water and keep pests from their plants. 

The gardener is an observer of patterns and change and makes specific choices about where to focus. They look ahead; considering how the Sun moves through the seasons, how companion plants and organisms bring nutrients to the soil; how five years of growth will change the environment they steward. 

 The Gardener invests in the future, knowing that some outcomes take time and several attempts to be realized. They value the knowledge and experience of other gardeners too as they exchange plants and strategies for achieving different goals. Each season brings new learning. 

The Soil

In our metaphor, “soil” represents the context in which the growth is happening. It’s what nourishes or impedes the growth of the seeds. And the health and suitability of soil is a dynamic with many factors, including what it is you’re trying to grow. 

Some seeds can grow in remarkably tough conditions. Some soil will be rich for only particular seeds and not others. But ideally, the soil provides what the Gardener needs for the desired seeds to flourish.