PFG – Part 1

25 January 2021 - by Gráinne Walsh

And we are off. The Executive has published the Programme for Government (PfG) Draft Outcomes Framework which is out for consultation for the next 8 weeks. Essentially, this is the first stage in a public conversation about the quality of life we want to see and what those conditions would be like if we could experience them.

The consultation on the PfG Draft Outcomes Framework will enable the Executive (and everyone else) to:

  •        understand where we are currently as a society
  •        measure success
  •        identify partners that can help make improvements
  •        understand what works well and what does not.

The New Decade New Approach (NDNA) document is referenced as outlining the process and approach for developing the PfG, stating that it should be:

  •        developed through engagement and co-design
  •        using an outcomes-based approach
  •        focus on prosperity and wellbeing for all
  •        establish a shared and ambitious strategic vision for the future
  •        provide for accountable and transparent monitoring and reporting arrangements.

So far, so familiar, as this was the approach that shaped the development of the last PfG, the one difference being a reduction in the number of outcomes from 14 to nine. While it may never have made it out of draft form, the last PfG certainly set a tone and a direction of travel for its successor, namely focusing on health, happiness and life-satisfaction - the things that matter most to people and “using that focus to design, shape and deliver public services that will achieve the best possible outcomes of societal wellbeing.”

In terms of public services and the administration of government this PfG also recognises and “proactively responds to the dependencies and connections that exist between different strands of public policy.”  

So, what’s different? Context. And this is where the document gets interesting as it states that COVID-19 has

  1. Provided a different perspective on the way we live our lives 
  2. Shone a light on established principles and standards that we have taken for granted for so long but which are now falling out of favour
  3. Allowed us to see and measure the impact of different governmental responses to the pandemic
  4. Shown us that those countries that have been most successful have acted responsibly by putting citizens first and by working collaboratively with those who have the skills, knowledge and expertise to bring about positive change and to get things done
  5. Exposed flaws in traditional models and approaches to public services
  6. Progressed thinking and practice around new and different ways of working

The main lesson from COVID-19 is the need for a whole societal approach, that governments can’t act alone when it comes to putting in place fast and effective responses to challenges and problems.

It is nicely summed up as “an approach which draws together scientific and technical expertise, combines it with local knowledge and information about what might work at community or individual level, and which uses relevant data to target where need is greatest.”

While an outcomes-based approach might not be new to the Executive, the introduction of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the heart of the PfG is. Described as “part of an internationally agreed performance framework designed to achieve a better and sustainable future for all, the PfG will now have the added role of demonstrating Northern Ireland’s progress towards the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.”

So, practically, what are we being asked to do? We are being asked to feedback on the draft Framework, the individual draft outcomes and outlined key priority areas. Do you agree with them?

Is there anything missing or is there anything in there that isn’t relevant?  What can be done differently or better in order to enhance our wellbeing? Who can help deliver real and lasting improvements in those things that matter most?

In developing responses, people (individuals, sectoral bodies, communities, groups, businesses) are asked to think about:

  • What you or your group can bring to the Programme?
  • What could be the game-changing actions?
  • Who can help show the way forward?
  • Who should the Executive partner and invest with to get the most impact from our collective efforts?
  • Who is best placed to deliver programmes on the ground?
  • What ideas are there for innovative new things or for seeing problems in a new light or for working?
  • In different ways?

It's worth noting that:

  • new actions can be introduced in response to changing circumstances or innovations, and perhaps most importantly
  • old/completed actions or ineffective plans will be stopped

So the challenge is set - the creation of a Programme for Government that makes real and lasting positive change towards improving wellbeing for all.

Drawing on twenty years of supporting organisations influence public policy, including ground-breaking work on the last PfG, Stratagem can support you develop your response to this critical public consultation. From planning workshops to drafting documents, our expert team can help you create a compelling contribution to this public conversation.  

To find out more about how we can help you and your team, get in touch to arrange a consultation.