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Thought Piece | Political Process Design: Why We Believe It Matters, Today More Than Ever

APROPOS Team





Over the past weeks, we've been in conversations with quite a few people from across the political sector, who have been curious to know more about the motivation behind our work.

The most frequently asked question is: "Why set up a think tank that focuses exclusively on Political Process Design?"

Soon, you'll be able to hear more about it in "The Influectuals" podcast by Soapbox and Sociopublico; as well as in an interview for PartyParty.


Yet, the recurring nature of the question gave us reason to pause and reflect on whether we could do more to share our understanding of the importance of political process design with the world.


The motivation behind the launch of the APROPOS Group, whose name reflects our mission of 'Advancing Process in Politics', is very clear.


We believe in the fundamental importance and positive potential of good processes in the political sector.

We believe we don't grant process sufficient attention in politics and that is why we set up a think tank whose mission is to change that.


With this piece, we hope to share a little piece of our team's thinking on why each of us believes political process design not only matters but why we are investing in championing and advocating for what we hope will be an emerging discipline, which we see as more relevant and urgent today than ever before.

We believe that process is political. The how of politics is just as fundamental to the functioning of our democracy, yet often, beyond large-scale institutional design, we tend to neglect to look at how we design our political deliberation and dialogue spaces. Our focus on Political Process Design comes from our belief that the way our deliberation and decision-making spaces are constructed makes a difference. Not only, from a purely outcome-oriented perspective, does it lead to better and more informed political solutions, with greater buy-in from key stakeholders, but it also has an impact on the very fabric of our democracy. Good process design means engaging political actors in better dialogue spaces. It means providing settings that are conducive to a better understanding of the different perspectives and aspects that inform complex problems. It means having more constructive political conversations. As Yuval Noah Harari reminds us, "Democracy is a conversation between people". Political Process Design focuses on how we can improve the quality of that conversation, which is why, today more than ever, in a society where speaking to one another has become increasingly challenging, it matters. Chiara Rosselli, Executive Director

It's a critical infrastructure for bridging the gap between policy thinking and policy making. With good Political Process Design, we want to contribute to bridging the gap between policy thinking and policy making by creating processes and spaces that provide the right conditions to learn from and listen to different political perspectives and ideas, hence providing the opportunity for new ways forward to emerge. We know by now that simply providing new information is not sufficient to have an impact on policymaking. Partly, this is because we do not take into consideration the way human decision-making works, and we overestimate our own rationality, as well as that of other political actors. For there to be real learning and potential for change, we need to create spaces where policymakers can actively engage with new policy proposals or policy thinking they are provided with, enter into in-depth conversations and have the time and space to adapt recommendations crafted by other policymakers. The everyday challenges and constraints of policymaking rarely offer a space that allows them to take a step back and be able to engage critically with novel perspectives and potential solutions. Our goal is to design political processes that allow policymakers to collaborate and work together in a way that wouldn't naturally occur within the rigid confines and limitations of current institutional fora. There are better, more efficient ways for the political sector to work together. Our investment in Political Process Design is underscored by our interest in wanting to mitigate the amount of energy and resources we waste through poorly-designed processes because we believe that a better way of working together is possible. Ronith Schalast, Associate

It's a necessary tool to unlock human collaboration. It matters because it teaches us something simple, yet grossly underestimated, or perhaps forgotten, especially when we think of political actors and how they "work" every day. Human beings - hence politicians included - rely on cooperation to learn. To begin solving the many global challenges that our society currently faces, expanding the existing research on how we cooperate and, particularly, why sometimes cooperation succeeds and why sometimes it fails is fundamental. Understanding how, as humans, we engage in decision-making and compromise-building is an area of research that has been tackled through several theoretical approaches and across different disciplines. Yet, more experimental approaches are necessary for a better understanding of the art of collaboration, and integrating the perspective of practitioners in the field can enrich and refine existing theories. Studying and understanding what makes cooperation work is at the core of political process design. Through experimentation and practical implementation, political process design is the tool through which we can build political dialogue spaces that are conducive to a more collaborative political culture. Isotta Ricci Bitti, Managing Director

It allows us to create adaptive, fit-for-purpose processes through which to support and empower our political thinking. Political Process Design fosters a different kind of thinking. It is human-centric in that it adapts to the needs and realities of the people that are affected by and engaged in a given political challenge. It offers problem-solving approaches tailored by design to the specificities of the societal problems we are trying to solve. In doing so, it allows political actors to work on and engage with issues and challenges that are still in gestation and creates processes through which we can accompany and deepen our political thinking surrounding problems that are in constant evolution, and where the solution is not self-evident. It is a maieutic endeavour that allows us to adopt an explorative mindset vis-à-vis complex political challenges. It is the art of creating appropriate, fit-for-purpose processes to help us understand and grapple with problems, and move forward. Applying a "logic of process" is a fundamental skill in many aspects of life, but it is transformational in the political field, where we are called to confront, navigate and manage ever-evolving and multi-faceted challenges.  A good process is a politically-neutral lubricant for the effective engagement of the different stakeholders who are invested in a given challenge, and while it does not itself provide a solution, it encourages the emergence of the right questions and assists participants in putting into focus key aspects of the challenge, sharing and understanding different perspectives and possible solutions, and finally mobilising towards a given objective. We can think of Political Process Design as a 'conductor', or incubator for better interaction, innovative thinking, and the vehicle towards the creation and adoption of new ideas. Investing in Political Process Design means investing in designing the future of coexistence, collaboration and policymaking; that is why it matters. Rebecca Farulli, Associate

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