Insight from Jasjeet Ajimal, Former Senior Advisor and Director to Canadian Provincial Cabinet Minister

Jasjeet Ajimal

What is your current title and your most recent title as a policy practitioner?

I am currently the co-chair of the Save Afghan Minority Project with the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation and continue to advise the private sector on public-private-community partnerships, policy improvements, and strategic project delivery.
In your opinion, what are the key elements of engaging a public sector leader on a new policy idea?

Great public leaders always look for new ways to renew policies and innovate. Public sector leaders are challenged to balance great ideas that can be implemented and ones that may be sound on paper but would not be feasible in practice.

Before crafting a concise, structured policy document and presenting a complete standalone idea, fully understand who you are engaging with and their current goals, scope, and holistic barriers. The essential information you should gather before engaging the leader includes understanding funding channels and cycles, mapping stakeholders, pathways of approval, and previous debates/comments on the topic. This research will enable you to craft a document that outlines your policy idea and addresses key concerns the leader may have.

Once your idea is crafted in writing, take a step back and reflect on how a staff member, such as the Director of Policy or Communications for the public leader, may view the idea, as they will be a sounding board for the leader. Also, reflect on your primary opposition to the policy idea, be very transparent as there is always a contrary viewpoint, and review the idea.

Once you have crafted, reflected, and reviewed, structure your thoughts into talking points. Presenting the policy idea in writing may get you into the room, but showcasing how the idea can better serve constituents while being questioned is another challenging step to overcome.

If you were to give advice to a organization looking to bring forward policy changes, what would be the main points to keep in mind? 

Changing policy and structuring agreements with the government is not easy. Whenever an organization decides to invest resources to craft policy recommendations, it should always keep the following in mind:

-     Clearly define how the policy change efforts align with your organization's values, goals, and strategic plans.

-     Define the policy vision and clearly outline how the policy change will support your organization's efforts. Answer the question, "if implemented tomorrow, how will this policy support my stakeholders?"

-     Create a well-defined policy roadmap that outlines incremental milestones. Most policy changes are gradational and require dedicated resources, including research, stakeholder mapping and engagements, staff attending roundtables, meeting with elected members, etc. A defined roadmap will enable you to track progress and report to financial teams/supports.

-     Formulate a knowledge base that enables your organization to be the experts on the subject matter. Your organization's ability to present expert-supported viewpoints will allow you to gather support from a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

-     Your communication ability will be as critical as the policy idea itself. Have a communications plan and communications team fully engaged throughout the process.