Tackling Public Risk: a practical guide for policy makers

Source: Risk & Regulation Advisory Council, United Kingdom

This report captures and explains the experience, knowledge and good practice developed by the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council. The guide explains how policy makers can apply the Council’s approach to their own public risk issues.

Executive Summary (quote)

“The Risk and Regulation Advisory Council has been leading an experimental offensive against the mishandling of risk in society. It looked at how distorted perceptions of risks can encourage poor policy-making and unnecessary laws, leading people to feel that Government is interfering too much in their lives.

Through its experimental work programme and research the Council has developed an approach to help tackle public risk issues in an increasingly risk-averse environment, and has shown how successful this can be. This approach means taking a step back from the immediate concern, recognising the wide range of groups that can combine to influence responses to a risk, and incorporating them actively into the policy-making process. It allows policy-makers to get to grips with risk issues, developing a common understanding with a wide range of interested people and groups leading to more positive outcomes. It can be used by policy- makers in developing policy, in implementing policy and in evaluating and refining policy. It will help build a policy that is robust and widely supported, reducing the chance of unintended consequences and the policy being unnecessarily criticised.

The approach places an emphasis on three key disciplines:
• Understanding the risk in context – getting to the bottom of how perceptions of the risk have been shaped, including through mapping the landscape around the risk.
• Engaging with a broad community – actively engaging the many different groups of people who have an interest in the issue and its outcomes, from an early stage, using the map of the risk landscape to develop a common understanding of the issues and to explore together how the issues can be tackled.
• Effective communication – quickly restoring focus to the underlying nature of any given risk, provoking insightful debate amongst the public about interventions and trade-offs.

This document compliments the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council’s report “Response with Responsibility – Policy-making for public risk in the 21st century” which summarises the results of its programme of work and recommends the wider use of its approach by providing a high-level practical guide to tackle public risk issues. It captures and communicates the experience, knowledge and good practice developed by the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council during the last 15 months in a practical guide for policy makers. This guide explains how policy-makers can apply this approach to their own public risk issues, and what they should consider when doing so. It also provides details of tools developed and tested by the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council to support this approach as well setting out where to go for further help.”

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