Since 2015, wirksam regieren – with citizens for citizens, the Federal Government’s first policy lab, has been translating empirical findings into practical policies. The division is made up of implementation experts and academics from various disciplines such as psychology, educational research, economics and law. Solutions are developed and tested under real-life conditions using empirical methods. Wirksam regieren works closely with experts in academia, ministries and other government agencies, as well as with citizens.
Understanding is the first step. To this end, and depending on the project, input on various questions is collected from citizens, consumers and other groups involved. For example, will those affected benefit from a proposed policy in the intended manner? How do citizens experience public services and where do they see potential for improvement? Are forms, applications and legal language clear and easy to follow? Is the information provided to consumers helpful? Wirksam regieren takes an interdisciplinary approach and builds on the latest findings of the empirical social sciences. For example, behavioural and decision sciences provide insights into how people deal with information or perceive processes.
After the understanding stage, design alternatives are developed for a proposed policy. Wherever possible, citizens are involved in this process of developing or improving proposed policies. In this way, their experiences and viewpoints are taken into account.
The various design options are tested empirically and under realistic conditions with a view to their actual effect, user-friendliness or clarity. Issues can be identified early on to optimise delivery and implementation.
Effectiveness requires evidence
Policymakers set goals. The administration then searches for the best way to achieve these goals and the intended impact. There are often many causes of problems, and the best solution is not always immediately apparent. There may be different – and often competing – solutions for a task. Wirksam regieren provides research-based expertise to ministries and public authorities, thus helping them to find the best-possible path to their goal. It also tests different approaches, thus creating knowledge, data and facts. Policymakers can then make decisions on the basis of the findings.
The benefits of this approach are that the effectiveness of political projects can be optimised from the citizens’ point of view; laws and programmes become more targeted; information is made clearer; forms, processes and legal language become simpler; unnecessary bureaucracy is avoided and taxpayers’ money is saved.