Humans will solve problems faster and more effectively if they collaborate. Doing this at a national level, where markets are influenced by policy that uses or references standards, can accelerate the outcome that a government wants to achieve.

The core idea

The core idea is to get all relevant parties together to work out not just what needs to be done, but also how to do it. This approach may be quicker and more effective than traditional ways of regulating to solve a problem. Putting the focus on innovation and implementation from the start, as part of agreeing policy on the need to address an issue and setting a system of rules, will speed up results.

One common approach for governments to achieve their goals is to think sequentially in implementing broad policy and to introduce a set of rules in legislation. The market follows like a cascade – sometimes in tune, sometimes not. New standards may emerge, or they may not.

In contrast, the approach recommended for governments is to co‐create consensus with the relevant parties on what needs to be done. This also includes the ethical principles and standards that need to be applied and the design of the system for achieving them. Co‐creating a system of legislative rules, stakeholder‐led standards and accredited conformity assessment to deliver a policy objective will accelerate outcomes by building consensus, ownership and accountability across government, regulators, industry and all parties involved in the process.

There is extensive evidence that engagement will be maximized, both within individual organizations and between stakeholders:

  • Where there is trust and respect between the different parties
  • Where all stakeholders are involved in co‐creating the system – not only the what but also the how, in the context of the why
  • Where everyone involved in implementing and operating the regime can see and support the essential purposes, objectives and outcomes, which thereby maximizes individuals’ internal motivation for achieving them
  • Where the rules are based on principles that the society values and potential conflicts between opposing values have been debated and balanced at an early stage so as to provide clarity in implementation

The proposed approach

The proposed approach is simple and quick to put into practice:

  • Encourage all the relevant stakeholders to come together in a neutral forum. This includes government, regulators, business and industry representatives, beneficiaries and end users (civil society), experts and intermediaries, such as standards, accredited conformity assessment, intellectual property and market surveillance bodies. Cover political objectives, practical delivery, economic mechanisms and ethical considerations.
  • Agree on the objective, the purpose and the desired outcomes.
  • Map the existing framework of standards and regulation.
  • Agree on the ethical principles, standards and rules needed to achieve the objective and how they will work together. Assess the existing framework against the agreed approach.
  • Coordinate the development of policy, standards and accredited conformity assessment. Iterate as necessary, using pilot projects to test the proposed solutions in the market.

Five simple steps

This simple five‐step collaborative approach to the co‐creation of a systems‐based approach to the delivery of policy objectives is based on strong scientific foundations and has the following advantages:

  • It draws together the knowledge and expertise of all relevant parties, especially government, regulators, academia, business, intermediaries, not just in agreeing the desired outcomes but also in ways of achieving them. It captures ideas and overcomes silos, enabling the development of joined‐up thinking.
  • It provides challenge to established thinking, which is necessary for testing and developing ideas. The tone of the discussion can be carefully moderated, within a culture of respect for the contributions of all stakeholders and mutual trust, so as to facilitate relevant debate but maintain joint cooperation and achievement of the core goals.
  • It is agile and dynamic, readily adaptable to different policy areas and outcomes.
  • It builds ownership of the achievement of the outcomes and accountability for observance of the principles and rules on the part of those who have to apply them. This powerfully supports compliance and innovation in performance.
  • It builds in the support of citizens, civil society and those who are the intended beneficiaries of the system. This facilitates both challenge and support for the outcomes and actions that follow.

This systems‐based approach to the efficient use of standards and regulations at national level will accelerate the delivery of policy objectives by governments working with their industries, societies and supporting infrastructure.

We recommend that this approach is adopted by national governments to support the rapid delivery and implementation of technological and other strategies needed to meet the climate change commitments that will be made at COP26.

Prof. Christopher Hodges and Scott Steedman

4 June 2021

About the authors

Prof. Christopher Hodges is Professor of Justice Systems and a co‐founder of the International Network for Delivery of Regulation (INDR), hosted at the Centre for Socio‐Legal Studies, University of Oxford.

Scott Steedman is Director‐General, Standards, British Standards Institution (BSI), London.