Agile and Evidence-based Policy for Effective COVID-19 Crisis Management – Complementary or Contradictory?
The COVID-19 pandemic required rapid responses and iterative policy actions with uncertain chances of success. These are all aspects of agile policymaking, a concept that has only recently found its way into public policy research (Mergel, Ganapati, & Whitford, 2021). First studies of COVID-19 responses rely on assessments of flexibility, adaptivity, stakeholder engagement, transparency, and effectiveness to describe agility (Moon, 2020). Others, however, contend that adaptivity and agility may even be at odds (Janssen & van der Voort, 2020). In policy processes under usual non-crisis conditions, agile policymaking can be a useful strategy for successful reforms, but it crucially depends on the systematic incorporation of expertise and evidence (Bandelow & Hornung, 2021).
How can we conceptualize agile policymaking as an explanation for effective crisis management? To what extent does agile policymaking conflict with or reinforce the inclusion of expertise and evidence, and how does it respond to different policy advisory systems?
To answer these questions, the proposed paper does four things: first, it reviews the current state of research on agile policymaking in the fields of public policy, governance, and public administration, inspired by the origins of agile project management in software development. Second, drawing primarily from this literature, it develops an analytical lens by conceptualizing and operationalizing criteria for agile policymaking. Third, it applies this lens to the COVID-19 crisis management of four very different European countries and shows whether agile policymaking could be observed and whether it led to effective crisis management. Fourth, and along the first three steps, it discusses the role of expertise and evidence in agile policymaking and how different policy advisory systems help or hinder agile policymaking.
Bandelow, N. C., & Hornung, J. (2021). „Agile“ gesundheitspolitische Politikgestaltung. Chance für gesundheitspolitische Entscheidungsprozesse? Bertelsmann Stiftung https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/fileadmin/files/user_upload/VV_Agile_Politikprozesse.pdf (last retrieved from 5 November 2021).
Janssen, M., & van der Voort, H. (2020). Agile and Adaptive Governance in Crisis Response: Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Information Management, 55, 102180. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2020.102180
Mergel, I., Ganapati, S., & Whitford, A. B. (2021). Agile: A New Way of Governing. Public Administration Review, 81(1), 161-165. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/puar.13202
Moon, M. J. (2020). Fighting COVID-19 with Agility, Transparency, and Participation: Wicked Policy Problems and New Governance Challenges. Public Administration Review, 80(4), 651-656. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/puar.13214