The New Policy Instruments and Approaches Collection

 A place to start your exploration 

Follow your curiosity to reach better policy outcomes through this collection of articles created by public servants in Canada’s Policy Community*.

What you’ll find here are some basic information on instruments and approaches, examples of application in a government context and what to keep in mind as public policy practitioners as you consider making them part of your thinking and process. 

This collection is a work in progress and many articles are a bit dated. That said, we wanted to make it available in light of the abundance of policy work and opportunities to consider these new policy instruments and approaches during and post COVID-19. Are you available to help enrich the content (e.g., see examples missing? Know of some insights that can be shared?), please let us know 

Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term used to describe a suite of related technologies intended to simulate and enhance human cognitive capabilities, such as pattern recognition, judgment, vision, or hearing. Its evolution can be divided into three stages: AI, as it currently exists (weak AI), can ...
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Behavioural Insights
Most people want to make healthier life decisions, be financially responsible and contribute to a sustainable society and environment. However, most of us also have lives full of obstructions to making the decisions that uphold these goals. Behavioural insights (BI) uses techniques from behavioural ...
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Big Data
Big data generally refers to datasets so large and complex they create significant challenges for traditional data management and analysis tools in practical timeframes. Often it refers to the use of predictive analytics or other advanced methods to extract value from data. These datasets exist beca...
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Blockchain
Blockchain[1] “In a nutshell, blockchain is a technology ‘borrowed’ from the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and provides us with a decentralized, verifiable and immutable ledger of ‘transactions’. Those transactions could be electronic currencies but could also be health records, immunizations, in...
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Citizen Science
Citizen science is a research technique that utilizes local citizens as resources to gather information for scientists in a large research project. Citizen Scientists do not necessarily have any scientific background, but they volunteer their time to observe, record and report data for scientists. T...
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Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, content or data by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, typically via an online platform, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers (Merriam-Webster). Crowdsourcing goes beyond traditional surveys, citizen...
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Data Analytics
Big Data is a term used to describe the collection, storing and processing of huge volumes of data. These data sources come from internal data sources such as purchasing or case management systems and external data sources from citizens, suppliers, partners and social networks to name a few. Using c...
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Design Thinking
Design thinking is a set of principles, practices and processes that are used in developing products, experiences and services based on the needs of the user. Design thinking has been repurposed to help governments develop better policies, programs, and services centered on users’ needs, by having...
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Experimentation
Experimentation entails using a rigorous method to test an idea or an approach to help identify what does and doesn’t work. By testing policy and program interventions or services at a small-scale, governments can generate evidence to learn what works and then make decisions on implementing larger...
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Foresight
Foresight is a process of anticipating and managing change. Foresight methods are used for strategic policy and planning to systematically imagine plausible futures based on current data, trends and policies. The most common foresight approach is scenario planning. Scenarios are credible, challengin...
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Gamification
Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts. By incorporating game elements such as points, quests, avatars, or levels to real life challenges, organizations may create incentives that change in behaviour and stimulate innovation by supporting engagement ...
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Hackathon/Appathon
A hackathon is an intense (usually 24-72 hours long) and creative event during which participants are put into teams that build solutions related to a predetermined theme. Traditionally hackathons (and their cousins Appathons, Codefests, and Pitch Camps) result in new apps, software programs, or pro...
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Innovation Hubs/Labs
Innovation Hubs/Labs (also known as innovation teams, labs, units) are differentiated from other teams in that they often adopt new and experimental methods to tackle various social and public issues. They come in a variety of sizes, use a range of techniques, and are equipped with different resourc...
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Open Data
Open data is data that is structured and machine-readable, freely shared, used and built on without restrictions (open.canada.ca). As a building block of open knowledge, open data promotes a robust and accessible commons, and interoperability is maximized by allowing for efficient combination or “...
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Open Policy Making
Open Policy Making refers broadly to the process of creating government policy with direct contributions from the public and other external parties. It includes the mindset, process and tools that create an “open by default” environment for governments to engage with citizens and other stakehold...
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Pay for Performance
Pay-for-performance (PFP) refers to funding arrangements where a commissioning organization financially rewards service delivery organizations (or private investors in the case of a social impact bond) for achieving agreed upon outcome targets. PFP is sometimes referred to as Pay-for-Success (PFS) i...
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Prizes/Challenges
Prize challenges are a form of crowdsourcing that use competitions with prizes (e.g. monetary, recognition, access, etc.) to incent broad or targeted participation in helping to solve particular problems. Prize challenges can be used in a broad range of disciplines (e.g. technical, scientific, polic...
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Public Service Mutuals
The “public service mutual” (PSM) or mutual is shorthand for a variety of initiatives, based on mutual or cooperative governance that in whole or in part delivers public services and in which employee or member control plays a significant role in their operation. Well-designed mutualization can ...
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Serious Games
Serious games, which include case competitions, simulations, board games like Policy Horizon’s game “Impact” and many other examples, are a great way to get people to learn and collaborate. The ‘serious’ in the title signals that these games aren’t just for fun, but provide users and org...
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Smart Regulation
Smart Regulation aims to achieve public confidence in regulatory effectiveness while limiting the burden on those being regulated. Smart regulation often promotes a ‘bottom-up approach’ to regulation that offers regulated entities the flexibility to develop their own strategies to meet prescribe...
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Social Innovation
There are many definitions for “social innovation”, which all broadly refer to new solutions that better address complex social challenges, such as youth homelessness, long-term unemployment, or the social isolation of seniors. These solutions can include programming, processes, types of organiz...
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Social Metrics
Social metrics are the measurement and articulation of social outcomes. They tend to describe ways to measure the change that individuals experience as a result of a particular intervention and are often used by organizations to articulate the impact of their programming. Social metrics represent t...
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*Initial content was crowdsourced from a number of Government of Canada teams and was informed by in-house, contextual expertise and validated through interviews with leading practitioners from outside the Public Service. See examples missing? Know of some insights that can be shared? Please let us know.