The blank policy page can be as intimidating as any blank ‘canvas’ facing an author.
Organisational policy writers working within an existing ‘policy culture’ will doubtless have templates, and perhaps even a ‘policy on policy-making’ (see links below) to guide them. Many smaller non-profit organisations, however, may not have reached that level of policy ‘maturity’, and so could benefit from adapting precedent or best practice guides to their local needs.
Use of policy templates may involve making only minor modifications to the boilerplate version, for the sake of appearing to have addressed an issue.
Unless the key stakeholders have engaged with the underlying concerns, and chosen from a set of policy options, they may have little understanding of the implications of the policy for their day-to-day decision making and action. That approach to policy is likely to encourage a greater disconnect between what the organisation says it does, and what its people actually do. This worst-case scenario illustrates how the ‘cultural iceberg’ could sink the organisation’s reputation.
Care must be exercised to ensure that the underlying purposes of the policy are well understood. Most policies require explanation, education and training of those expected to implement them. Merely sending them as an email attachment, or storing them on the organisation’s website / wiki, does nothing to ensure that the target audience understands why the policy exists, and how they should interpret it in various circumstances.
To the extent that policies are framed using principles, or universally applicable rules, people expected to comply will have greater agency in achieving the policy objective. Lists of do’s and don’ts might seem clear, but they can also lead to superficial and token responses which erode effective policy.
Template organisational policies can be particularly useful in circumstances where legal compliance is required. They can help to ensure that each of the matters required to be addressed by law or regulation have been met. Education about the rationale behind the legal requirement will be important if any such policy is not to be ‘honoured in the breach’.
Policy banks, libraries, directories, and toolkits
Policy banks and toolkits generally offer templates and formats which allow small organisations with limited resources to use a ‘boilerplate’ approach, making only minor changes to ensure local relevance and references. The two most valuable ‘policy banks’ I have recommended to non-profit clients are those offered by the Institute of Community Directors (a subsidiary of Our Community – assisted by Moores) and NFP Law.
Precedent policies can also be found in policy directories and libraries, such as those published by universities, local government bodies and some associations and charities.
A selection of links to various policy resource banks and toolkits is offered below. These have been grouped according to the sector they relate to rather than the type of resources offered, however filenames often give the clue as to whether you will find templates designed for adaptation, position statements supporting advocacy, or organisational policies (covering both governance and operational matters). Some links could have been grouped under more than one heading of course. There are also some specialised resource links (e.g. child protection), which may have relevance well beyond the sector in which they are listed.
POLICY ON POLICY DEVELOPMENT & REVIEW
AGED CARE SECTOR
Access to the NDS Policy Library is restricted to members.
One thought on “Policy Precedents: Benefits and Risks”