Making public policy more fun | Vasiliki (Vass) Bednar | TEDxToronto

Translator: Denise RQ
Reviewer: Kim Key I know what you’re thinking! Wok Star?! That girl is never getting a job
in government! And you know what? You’re probably right! Why is that? Well, it turns out that my playful tone
just doesn’t properly match the sober affection best suited
for the world’s most wicked problems! Now, you may not have heard
of wicked problems and that’s ok, but it’s how we talk about challenges
and policy. There are social challenges
that are extremely difficult to solve and resistent to resolution. Where solving one aspect of the problem
inherently unravels others. In this way, they are also
not very cool problems, like, “Oh, my god, that problem
is so wicked!” or, “Hey society, where did you get
that wicked problem?!” So, we’ve got problems. More than 99 of them, and lots of them
are wicked. From poverty to health care,
the environment, nuclear weapons, education and Rob Ford. (Laughter) (Applause) And you’ve got me! With vacillating levels of seriousness
and over there, government! Which frankly, takes itself
a bit too seriously. And yet, policy making is a sort of game. It’s one where we try to make society
better and get things done. In fact, it’s a four player pursuit
refereed by the media, where the public service, NGOs, experts and the private sector jostle for power and influence. Just like this, and they jossle
so intensely that they overlook the public who watches
from the sidelines. That’s right, public policy
keeps forgetting about the public. By the way, that’s you. And if you want to be a player
in the process by all means, but your moves are few. You could protest, write a letter
make a deputation, attend a consultation or tweet passive aggressively. (Laughter) The process forces you to be reactive
not proactive. So, where do we look
for some policy-style inspiration? Imagine that the city of Toronto asked you
to help allocate the municipal budget. A city in Brazil, Porto Alegre,
has been doing just that since 1989. Or what if the political party you support
crowdsource their election platform asking you to shape and inform
their priorities? Hold the phone! Is there a place for such tomfoolery
in something as serious, as rigorous and as important
as public policy? There can’t be. And what you need to know is this: Get your notebooks out
you’re going to want to write this down. Somebody zoom in on me. (Laughter) There are two Ps in ‘public policy’. There’s a ‘p’ in ‘public’
and there’s a ‘p’ in ‘policy’. But that’s not what I mean! I want to explain that there are actually
two kinds of policy: there’s big ‘P’ policy
and there’s small ‘p’ policy. Big ‘p’ is the articulation of a course
of action that’s intended to influence. It’s more formal, typically regulated. Big ‘P’ is bills and laws and acts
and is, by no means, a child’s play but that doesn’t mean
we can’t play around with it. Last year, Iceland rolled the dice
and they crowdsourced their constitution. Small ‘p’. Small ‘p’
is the articulation of a standard. It’s less formal, typically unregulated,
and lots of small ‘p’ innovations happens thanks to the ingenuity
of ordinary people. Think of something like
the Rocket Radar app, a privately developed application
that lets you know when the next street car or bus
is coming, down to the minute. That was made possible
by the government practice of open data. Another cool example
is how some walk-in clinics or doctors will now text you when it’s finally
your turn, sparing you that mind-numbing wait. These are user-led improvements
to public processes that make things better for everyone. And that’s exactly the same vision
that drives big ‘P’ policy change. This guy, small ‘p’, is a sandbox
for the public good and it’s where we can start to get
in the ring with these wicked problems. What else is going on in the ring? Last year, this random computer gamer
solved an AIDS research problem that has been stumping scientists
for 15 years, using an online game called “Fold it!” It took the gamers 3 weeks. This is an example of how the public
has a place when those experts
are spinning their wheels. In 2007 Americans played
the alternate reality game “World Without Oil”. The simulation helped players imagine
what a peak oil crisis might be like which in turn,
helped players engineer solutions. What I like about this example is
that it wasn’t mandated by government, the public made their place and the result
has obvious benefits for the state. I said there were two p’s in public policy
and I want a third: ‘play’! And should we proactively just play around
with problems? Games aren’t new, I know that. But what is new, is the notion
that there is a link between the elements of games
and widespread productive participation in policy making. In Canada, we are ignoring the merits
of gamification, crowdsourcing and mass collaboration. And what I am endorsing
is a brave new policy world that’s more inclusive,
experimental and daring. And more small ‘p’ can be the catalyst
we need for big ‘P’ to stand up and take note of new, hot ways
for getting shit done. Policy makers, I haven’t forgotten
about you! Don’t think I worte my talk thinking
you wouldn’t be here or watching online and can we give it up for people
watching online from work? (Applause) You guys, I ‘Triple Dog’ dare you
to come out and play! But first I need you to recognize that’s there is a serious place
for play in policy. As for the rest of you, policy spectators, you can be an extraordinary source
of surprising solutions that our most pressing and yes,
even wicked problems! But there is only one way to find out. Ladies and gentlemen, your move! It’s the end! (Applause) Thank you! (Applause)

About the author


  1. Everyone talks about this RACE problem and says that this RACE problem will be over when the third-world pours into EVERY White country and ONLY into WHITE countries.

    Everyone says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY White country and ONLY White countries to “assimilate,” that is, intermarry, with all those non-Whites.

    They’re pushing wHiTe geNOcide!

    They claim they are “anti-racist”, what they are is anti-White

    Anti-racist is a code for anti-White


  2. It's a cute idea but I feel that this will have a tendency to backfire. Sure sometimes the best solution is held by those who don't have power to change things, those guys need to be heard and considered. But using this idea how exactly would anyone propose we vett out the stupid moronic and bigoted ideas? A comity consisting of elected officials? That's almost the system you have now isn't it?
    People should have more input in their local policies but the power of decision? I see that turning out good sometimes but mostly bad. More power to the people but not too much. Politicians are corrupt becasue they are people, weak corruptable human people. 

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