Like many, I was conditioned to think of policy as a set of rules and standards made by people in power. As an early career professional, I’ve been in positions to influence policy but not to create or monitor policy…or so I thought. Through Karen’s course, I learned my thoughts about policy were incomplete. Here are a few of my takeaways:
Good policy has phases. As John Heywood famously declared, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” Systemic changes do not occur overnight. Policies should have achievable implementation plans that consider both human and organizational behavior.
Good policy is poetry. That’s not to say it’s enjoyable to read; quite the contrary, in my experience. But good policy is poetic in that words are carefully curated and chosen with intention. Explicit when necessary and elusive when needed.
Good policy is potent. Policy is a powerful tool. Will it bring world peace? Probably not. But it can create more just hiring practices, fairer college admission standards, equitable salaries, cleaner air. Policy is powerful to enact changes in behavior, processes, and direction. So, on second thought, maybe it can?
Good policy is a permit. It allows for people, communities, and organizations to be better versions of themselves. Perhaps the most significant paradigm shift resulting from Karen’s class is that policy isn’t always about constraint, but also capacity-building.
All policy is a pillow. Policy is a protective measure that provides support to rest on and a shield when challenged.
In short, policy is not a list of do nots and cannots. Instead, it’s a guide for best practice with the understanding that every department of every institution of every sector operates differently.