How to build a modern and intuitive Policy Library
Policy publication is usually the last mile in the policymaking lifecycle, but it’s often the most complicated and confusing for both citizens and government. The publication of regulations and laws typically falls under the purview of Secretaries of States, Office of Legislative Services or, in the federal government, the U.S. Government Publishing Office.
Successfully syndicating policy requires an excellent public-facing component and an extremely organized, easy-to-use internal management system for governments to deploy policy updates.
Unfortunately, governments have been limited in the tools to accomplish this. When we start working with clients, we often hear stories of countless dollars poured into home-brewed systems that never met muster, and a general frustration with the status quo.
In this blog post, we outline some critical features of a modern Policy Library that’s user-friendly for both the public and governments.
Let’s start with the public-facing side
Citizens are visiting government websites to easily find policy and understand how it applies to their work and lives. Here are some key components of a public-facing Policy Library to consider:
- First and foremost, a Policy Library should be easily searchable. Citizens should be able to find a policy by keyword, governing agency and citation. A modern, responsive search experience is a non-negotiable starting point
- All related documents should live alongside the regulation. Are there supporting guidance documents, interpretative statements or other memos that have been issued by the regulating agency that reference the regulation? Rather than make the user search for them, present the related policies alongside the regulation so the user has the full picture. This boosted transparency will also help filter out questions and Freedom of Information Act requests that can bog down an agency’s time and resources
- Users should also have the ability to subscribe to alerts and updates on specific policies. As a user, I want to be notified if a policy of interest is open for public comments or has significant changes. Being able to easily sign up for alerts and manage subscription preferences boosts citizen engagement and agency transparency
- The Policy Library should be ADA-accessible and mobile-responsive. As a citizen, I should be able to look up a policy even if I am visually impaired, and I should be able to do research on my phone or tablet. Home-brewed websites in government are rarely fully ADA-compliant and the cost of internally maintaining the Policy Library is often more than a government can bear
How can agencies achieve this?
To ensure a smooth public-facing Policy Library, government agencies need to invest in a strong internal management system capable of managing both internal and external stakeholder workflows. Here are some points to consider when investing in an internal management system:
- Streamline workflow and communications between agencies and the publishing body. Agencies usually submit their proposed policy to the Secretary of State (or Office of Legislative Services) on a specific deadline with specific formatting requirements. A strong internal management system can notify agencies of upcoming deadlines, allow for electronic submission of proposed policy and support the formatting of policy with standardized templates
- The goal here is to reduce unnecessary back and forth between the agency and the publishing body, saving everyone time and headache
- The Policy Library should have a complete history of past versions of polices. Unfortunately, many government websites “overwrite” the last version of a policy, losing valuable digital copies
- When it’s time to update a new policy, agencies will often look back on past versions for guidance and context on why certain decisions were made. Keeping these versions in a single place retains valuable institutional knowledge and reduces administrative overhead
- Easy syndication of policy to stakeholders. Anyone who may be impacted by a policy or who has signed up for alerts should automatically receive a notification whenever a policy changes. Better still, integrate a public comment management solution into the Policy Library so that all public feedback on policy can be stored and tracked alongside the proposed regulation
- This completely integrated solution saves agencies time and helps gauge public sentiment on policy
- Track engagement with policy overtime. Are certain policies visited more than others? How long does it take for people to read a policy? Tracking these indicators can tell you where policies might be confusing or too wordy, and where agencies might need to clean up or clarify policy to make it easier for the public to navigate
Like what you’ve read? Esper’s Policy Library addresses all of the above and more. Get in touch to see a demo for yourself.