Public Policy Can Create a Better World (If We Want It To)

Mar 15, 2024

The importance of public policy decisions cannot be overstated.  They have the power to impact every facet of society and shape the very future of our shared world. The key to building a better world, therefore, is making the best policy decisions today. 

And how can we ensure that public policy decisions are the best they can be?  By improving our policy-making processes. In this post, we’ll look at the high stakes of public policies, key areas for improvement in policy-making, and the essential elements required to ensure the policy-making process is rooted in best practices. 

The High Stakes

Public policy decisions are the most impactful decisions made in society.  They can affect everything, including:

  • citizen health, education, safety and freedom; 
  • the economy; 
  • the natural environment; 
  • the built environment; and
  • intergovernmental relations.  

 Take healthcare as an example. In 1957, the Government of Canada decided to create a universal, publicly-funded healthcare system.  This policy decision has ensured free, equitable access to medically necessary services for Canadians regardless of income, employment status, or pre-existing conditions. The profound, positive impact on the health of generations of Canadians cannot be understated.

By contrast, the Government of Canada also carries the weight of shameful Indigenous policies. Their residential school policy, for example, saw Indigenous children being taken from their homes to have the “Indian” removed from them.   This policy has had a profound negative impact on generations of Indigenous Canadians.  


Polarization, Populism & Pressing Societal Issues 

Many citizens, stakeholders, and academics are raising their concerns about government policy-making at the local, provincial, national and international levels.

Their concerns include, but are not limited to:

  • the polarization of political positions and rise of populism,
  •  lack of a voice in the policy-making process, and, 
  • the spread of false and misleading information on social media. 

Many pressing societal issues also remain unresolved such as:

  • climate change and other earth system disruptions;
  • the extinction of species;
  • the inequitable distribution of income and economic opportunity;
  • the overconsumption of finite natural resources;
  • the lack of basic necessities for many people; and,
  • the lack of basic human rights for many people.

Room For Improvement 

Given the importance of public policy decisions, one would expect governments and public institutions to be obsessed with improving their policy-making process!

There is, however, no standard of measurement for public policy decisions. This is likely because public policy issues are often complex. As a result, few, if any, governments have intentionally set out to create a policy-making process fully rooted in best practices.  

A Better Way to Make Policies

 So, what would a policy-making process rooted in best practices look like for our governments and public institutions?  Based on my 30+ of experience as a municipal CAO and my extensive research, I’ve concluded that the best policy-making process should be: 

  • Transparentso governments are held accountable and have less ability to make behind-closed-doors decisions that benefit a select few with power or one group more than others  
  • Inclusive – so all citizens and stakeholders can participate in the policy-making process, and no individual or group is discriminated against.
  • Sustainable so negative social, environmental, and economic impacts are avoided/mitigated and future generations are not burdened by decisions made (or not made) today.
  • Equitable – so the costs and benefits of government decisions are distributed in line with the needs and abilities of its citizens.
  • Deeply engaging – so members of the public are fully and meaningfully involved in the policy-making process. This, in turn, will ensure that government decisions are better informed and supported by members of the public and that the creativity, diversity of ideas, and wisdom of the crowd is harnessed.
  • Consensus-based –  so political and ideological divisions can be overcome and solutions that all can accept are implemented
  • Evidence-informed  -so public policy decisions are grounded in evidence to the greatest extent possible.
  • Delivered online asynchronously – so people can participate on their own time, from the location of their choosing.  
  • Respectful – so all perspectives can be fairly heard and considered.


A Powerful Platform For Policy Makers

Most governments and public institutions incorporate some of the above-noted practices into their policy-making process but few, if any, include them all.

Without fully adopting these best practices, the individual elements are less effective. For example, if a policy-making process considers sustainability, but doesn’t take into account equitable considerations, the resulting policy decision may place an unfair burden on certain socio-economic groups of citizens. 

I established Civonus to address this vital gap in the policy-making process.  Our web-based process has been carefully designed to be open and transparent, consensus-based, sustainable, equitable, inclusive, respectful, evidence-informed, and deeply engaging.

It is essentially a pre-designed and comprehensive policy-making platform that ensures best practices are followed at every step. 

Civonus is the first of its kind on the market.  It is not to be confused with community engagement platforms. While these are also valuable tools, they are not designed to guide the policy-making process itself. 

Modernizing Public Policy

Those who make public policy decisions are responsible for making the best decisions they can. 

Until now, there has been very little conversation about the importance of establishing best practices in policy-making.  It is time to have that conversation and revolutionize public policy. 


Bonus: Take the survey to see how well your government is doing!

There are no standards of measurement for public policy decisions, so I created a simple survey instrument to help governments, public institutions, and their citizens/stakeholders, estimate the quality of their policy-making process.  It is intended to serve as a starting point for your journey toward improving your processes.  TAKE THE SURVEY and see how well your government is doing.

Robert Hughes, President and CEO, Civonus Inc.

Civonus Inc. offers an online policy-making process to facilitate better public policy-making; and to enable governments and public institutions to collaborate with other governments and public institutions on policy-making for issues they have in common. It does so through the deep and meaningful engagement of citizens, government officials, subject matter experts and other stakeholders, in a process that is designed to produce more transparent, consensual, sustainable, inclusive, equitable, evidence-informed policy-making.

To find out more, visit