‘It has never been like this and now it is exactly the same again’: problems in sustaining policy innovations: The case of the Compact
Zimmeck, Meta; Rochester, Colin (2011)

by Meta Zimmeck and Colin Rochester, Practical Wisdom R2Z Consultants

Over the last two decades government has had a seemingly insatiable desire for innovation, and it has looked to the voluntary and community sector as a source of policy development and service delivery across a wide range of areas. Indeed as part of its effort to involve the voluntary and community sector in its projects it adopted the Compact, a genuinely innovative tool for partnership working without precedent and without extensive policy hinterland.

The Compact has been in place since 1998, and its proponents have struggled to keep it fit for purpose in a rapidly changing environment – through revisions of some of its Codes; an end run around the difficulties of implementation through twin-tracking, the creation of a streamlined and accredited version, Compact Plus; a ‘refresh’ and then a ‘revision’ of its text (in 2009 and 2010, respectively); and the utilisation of a range of agents to roll out and manage its implementation – including (not an exhaustive list) a Ministers’ Group, G3 Champions and Voluntary Sector Liaison Officers in government; the Compact Working Group/Compact Voice, the Compact Advocacy Programme, the Compact Mediation Service and the Empowering the Voluntary Sector Programme in the sector; and the Commission for the Compact as ‘honest broker’ sitting uneasily (and shortly not at all) between government and the sector.

In this paper, which draws on our experience as authors of the forthcoming summative evaluation of the Compact, we will explore what happens after innovation – that is implementation, with all its attendant organisational and political challenges. We will take a view on the impact of governments’ policy hyperactivity, with its prioritisation of novelty and change and its deprioritisation of stability, received wisdom and practical administrative skills: ‘It has never been like this and now it is exactly the same again’ (Obituary of Viktor Chernomyrdin, The Economist, 4 November 2010).

The full paper is available here (PDF).

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