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Knowledge and policy-making: acknowledging each policymaker’s contribution to the decision-making process

[Editor’s note: This post was written by Javiera Loreto Araya Menares, Professional of the Department of Social Inclusion at the Minister of Social Development in Chile. It is part of a series intended to share results, reflections and what facilitators and participants learned through the development and conduction of the online course “Leaders of change: developing Latin American policymakers‘ capacity to promote the use of knowledge in policy”.]

 

By Waponi at flickr.com under CC

By Waponi at flickr.com under CC

It is interesting to reflect on the use of knowledge in the public sector or the different state organizations that are part of public administration, such as municipalities, utility companies, ministries and also public or state companies. However, it is unavoidable to debate the ways knowledge is poorly used and recognize the stakeholders taking part in its preparation and implementation.

The use of knowledge implies a complex scenario. Resorting to information is not just an initiative aimed at empirically supporting decision-making. Before resorting to information, it is also important to consider its reach (strength and weaknesses) and to look for strategies that mitigate its weaknesses.

Another important aspect is to know and acknowledge the stakeholders involved in the knowledge production process, in the theoretical-conceptual sense as well as those actually taking part in the state organization itself. When I refer to the theoretical-conceptual aspect, I mean it in the sense of having knowledge of the different processes that may be involved in each process, their reach, interests and skills and also of identifying which stakeholders have an actual presence within the organization. The former shall allow for a holistic understanding of the organizational scenario; the latter shall allow us to know the strong points within the organization and the barriers or weaknesses in terms of human assets, as well as to strategically coordinate and organize the different stages of knowledge management, decision-making and public-policy generation, thus generating better results.

The above scenario is promising, if it was possible to organize the human resources and align the different stakeholders’ interests within an organization for the common good. However, reality is quite different: as officials, we have to deal with a complex scenario where players represent specific interest that may range from very political to very technical ones. At the end of the day, organizations are not strictly one or the other, but a heterogeneous space where stakeholders must talk to each other. Therefore, I think it is essential for each stakeholder to know his/her place within the process of knowledge generation, of influence in the decision making process, in the decision-making itself and with which other stakeholders they must interact in order to reach the ultimate goal; thus, acknowledging their contribution and that of the other stakeholders to the decision-making chain.

I believe that if professionals within an organization do not manage to see their own value within the policy-creation and/or decision-making process, it is very difficult for them to make a contribution to said processes. It is important for them to get involved, acknowledge their position and potential contributions to the great public service value chain, identifying their individual role or contribution, related to a certain type of knowledge and its practical scope, i.e., understanding “which is my role and the impact of my work on the decision-making process”; and in this sense, being aware of how the supplies and types of information each official generates promote better informed decisions.

Within this context, it is also worth mentioning the value of peers as allies in this process of creating suitable, coherent, efficient, sustainable and durable policies, whether in technical, operational teams as well as those in higher positions.

In order to promote this cooperative scenario, I think every public institution should recognize each official’s value and encourage officials to know the work and contributions that professionals from other areas within the institution make to the chain value. To do so, it is necessary to create opportunities for involvement and open calls to internally show what each department does.

Finally, I find relevant for institution officials to have direct knowledge of the social situation about which they generate knowledge and create public policies. There is no doubt that it is necessary to support decision-making with information and good knowledge management in order to create policies knowing they will generate the expected results. However, I think it is essential to generate knowledge taking the social context into account; in this sense, it is necessary for the different public policy stakeholders, knowledge creators and decision-makers to keep the social and local situation in mind, acknowledging its ever-changing nature and addressing its challenges.

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