Focus on results
– Feedback and learning from industrial policy interventions
When deciding on how to design a growth policy it is instrumental for the government to get feedback on what its policy implementing agencies have done and, what has been achieved. The shaping of the system for reporting the coherence between policy, implementation and impact is crucial for an effective governance system. With this as a background, on 22 June 2016, Growth Analysis was commissioned by the committee on ”The Development of the Innovation and Entrepreneur Climate” (N 2015:01) to conduct an explorative study describing and analysing how the feedback given to the government by various public growth policy oriented agencies is organised and to discuss how the reporting of feedback could be improved, and thereby contribute to increased learning for the government’s growth policy.
With this task at hand, Growth Analysis (Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis) has analysed the current system and put together a series of comments and recommendations on how to improve feedback and the reporting system. The analysis is based partly on a description of previous and current feedback practice, and partly on a text analysis of the annual reports produced by agencies the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and Vinnova.
Reporting of results
The first observation made is that existing documents of governance are inconsistent when it comes how various agencies should report actions taken and results achieved. In the government bill (Bill 2009/10:175), ”impact in society” is used as an example of how to define the term “results” while in the regulation that states the guidelines for the public authorities’ annual reports (FÅB 2000:605 Chapter 3), there is no definition of what is to be viewed as a result. A consistent view of this concept is crucial for discussions regarding what have been done and what has been achieved.
Growth Analysis finds that, in general, the annual reports are in line with the recommendations put forward by Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV), but that there is potential for further improvements.
The current governance system can be described as focused on activities and process information, such as number of applicants to a programme, amounts of money paid out, the shaping of programmes, etcetera. At the same time, there is a lack of information about goals with the programs and the real impact of implemented measures. One reason for this could be the complexity of each individual measure. Nevertheless, we argue, in line with ESV, that as long as it is possible, specific goals should be identified and that clear goals is a powerful instrument for relevant impact reporting.
Vaguely specified goals make it difficult to evaluate and extract knowledge about implemented policies. To be precise, goals that are imprecisely formulated will make it hard to conduct evaluations since it may be unclear where the spotlight should be aimed and what to analyse. This problem applies to both the policy implementing agencies themselves as well as for external evaluators.
Growth Analysis’ suggests that distinct goal descriptions should be given priority. The reporting on how stipulated goals and impacts are being accomplished will therefore be a central contribution to the government’s assessment of the future shaping of its growth policy. We suggest therefore that feedback concerning goals and impacts should include the following components:
- Goals and expected results/impacts during the ongoing project period
- Goals and expected results/impacts in the short term
(up to one year after the programme has ended)
- Goals and expected results/impacts (and side-effects) in the medium and long term (2–4 years and 5+ years)
- Achieved results/impacts in the short term
- Achieved results/impacts in the medium term
We also believe that the reporting of results to the government can be developed within the framework of getting better coherence between policy, implementation and impact. Table 1 in the report suggests a number of formulations which, if used in, for example, an appropriation document would contribute to appropriate feedback concerning actions taken and results achieved.
Growth Analysis therefore argue that a further development of how to formulate goals and how to take use feedback from independent impact analyses would not only improve policy management but also facilitate increased policy learning and strengthen growth policy.