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APROPOS Policy Design Sprint: Policymakers Collaborate Across Borders

Project type

Collaboration Technology for Policymaking


Facilitators and Process Designers

The next edition of the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint is foreseen for November–December 2023.

What is the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint?

The APROPOS Policy Design Sprint is a collaboration technology for policymaking deployed to assist policymakers to co-design a policy prototype in four remote meetings over the course of six weeks.

The approach behind it originated from the APROPOS Political Process Design methods, which combine elements of dialogue facilitation, human-centric design thinking and the results-focused approach of the Agile methodology of the Sprint.

It is uniquely tailored to respond to the needs of policymakers and was ideated to provide an informal and accessible collaboration space to test and experiment with the prototyping of solutions to highly polarized issues and challenges. Its process is specifically crafted to support cross-country and cross-party collaboration and to facilitate the creation of sustainable policy solutions that enjoy broad support before being implemented or discussed in political institutions.

Thanks to the activation of the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint collaboration space, policymakers can start working very fast across-borders and side-by-side with a select group of experts from different sectors (academia, civil society, and the private sector) to ideate and test a policy prototype.

What’s an APROPOS Policy Design Sprint like?

The APROPOS Policy Design Sprint is a collaboration technology that takes participants from exploring a problem area to co-designing a prototype of a policy solution.

It consists of four 120-minute sessions, combining both online and offline work, completed in the course of six weeks.

It follows specific principles:

• Active and rapid decision-making. Facilitators assign key roles to different participants during the decision-making process for increased speed and effectiveness.
• Working Together Alone. Participants are given time to do deep focused work alone and then can contribute to the solution. This has the advantage of leveling the playing field.
• Tangible ideas first. Tangible ideas are preferred over back-and-forth discussions.
• Getting started over being right. Participants advance quickly toward the creation of a prototype to test with users, without the presumption of a perfectly polished product.

The four meetings are organised as it follows:

Meeting 1: Problem Framing
(Opportunity Areas, Long-Term Goal, Our Sprint Questions, Stakeholder Mapping)

The APROPOS Policy Design Sprint starts off with a broad challenge. Based on this, three questions that need to be answered at the end of the sprint, are defined. This helps narrow down the core challenge to a set of guiding questions that focus on a specific aspect of the problem area.

Meeting 2: Idea Elaboration
(Solution Flows, from Idea to Prototype, User Testing and Introducing the Prototype)

After the problem framing, participants review best practice ideas and vote on potential solutions leading to the identification of a prototype idea.

Meeting 3: Feedback & Fine-Tuning
(User Feedback and the ‘Wall of Justice’, Feedback Clusters, What Worked, What Didn’t Work, and Challenges, Tweaking the Prototype)

In the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint, the objective is never to create a fully-fledged product, but rather, a prototype that appears realistic enough to allow the basic premises supporting the policy idea to be tested and further developed.

Meeting 4: Closing of Sprint
(Next Steps, Communication Products and Ideas, Ways Forward, Best Practice Marketplace)

The Closing of Sprint meeting is the time when a team takes stock of its progress, including:

• Demonstrations of the work completed during the sprint;
• A series of short brainstorming sessions about whether the initial expectations were met;
• A possible action plan including experiments and pledges on how to go from the prototype phase into the testing one.

The Closing of Sprint is an important moment of the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint, as it helps identify areas of improvement and ideas or experiments to test the final prototype and ultimately validate how well the ideas can solve the problem.

How is the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint unique?

The APROPOS Policy Design Sprint is the most condensed process for policy prototyping that facilitates cross-border collaboration and is uniquely tailored to policymakers.

At APROPOS, we believe in the fundamental importance and positive potential of good processes in the political sector. We believe we don't grant process design sufficient attention in politics and this is why we developed the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint technology which:

- Supports collaboration among policymakers across different countries and parties
- Enables collaboration between policymakers and political stakeholders from different sectors (academia, civil society, and the private sector)
- Combines the elements of the most innovative collaboration methods adapted for the political sector
- Fosters trust and ownership of cross-border policy solutions contributing to their long-term sustainability
- Facilitates the fast experimentation and testing of policy solutions
- Prevents extreme polarization of political issues and societal changes

When was the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint collaboration technology first tested?

The pilot edition of the APROPOS Policy Design Sprint was first launched in June-July 2021 and saw the participation of six politicians from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovenia and a group of nine experts. The participating experts came from renowned institutions like the London School of Economics, the European Parliamentary Research Service, the Heinrich Heine University, the University of Birmingham and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

It was called “How can parliaments better oversee executive action during crises?” and responded to the urgent needs of the COVID crisis, just as parliaments across Europe were disrupted by the global pandemic and parliamentarians were seeking to build concerted solutions fast and across parties and borders.

This unique opportunity for collaboration allowed for the active generation and experimentation of policy ideas when executive and legislative bodies were shown to be ill-prepared for moments of crisis. It offered chances for parliamentarians across six European countries to connect during a time when they felt they had lost the ability to stay engaged in day-to-day decision-making processes due to the discontinuation of in-person parliamentary sessions.

During the Sprint, the participants decided to focus on one solution that could help build resilience ahead of crises. They created a two-pronged protocol for crisis management called “P2 - Preparation for Participation” which foresaw the setting up of a special parliamentary crisis committee and a citizen consultation platform working synergistically.

Feedback on this idea was explored through 13 in-depth user interviews with parliamentarians, citizens, and experts, which contributed to the testing of the policy prototype. This feedback informed final tweaks and recommendations and the Sprint participants were provided with materials to take their idea beyond the prototyping stage and forward into implementation.

The full report can be found on the top left side of this page.

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