Step 1: Assessing the capacity for change

The first step for the EO involves assessing the capacity of the government to reform. The EO needs to ascertain at the outset of a policy cycle if it has a chance of success.

Reform processes are intimately connected with the political economy of change. This includes the system of accountability and governance exercised within and outside the State, the extent to which the State is open or closed, and the extent to which its policy-making processes are open to influence. Because reform is fundamentally a process of political contestation, there are no formulas that may be imported from elsewhere. Each society needs to determine the political settlement that best accommodates its competing interests, and then find the appropriate technical solution that suits that chosen political settlement.(1) In determining readiness for change, the following approach can help.(2)

The EO's objective is 'Change' or 'Reform'. To arrive at this the EO needs to logically assess the following issues:

  1. What is the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo?
  2. Does the EO have a clear vision of a 'new future?'
  3. What are the practical first steps toward this 'new future?'
  4. How great is the resistance to changing the status quo?

It then needs to make the judgement that change is likely if the level of dissatisfaction, vision for change, and clear practical steps for change are greater than resistance.

In practical terms take the following example:

Issue to change: The government introduces a new landing tax at all airports which all passengers must pay.

Level of dissatisfaction with the status quo: Airlines who have seen passenger numbers decrease since the imposition of tax; Hoteliers and restaurants who are noticing a drop-off in trade.

Clear vision of the "new future" proposed by the EO: Very strong pressure from a significant number of enterprises and sectors in the economy. The case needs to be put that by reducing, or preferably abolishing the tax, passenger numbers will increase; hotels and restaurants will be fuller, and government will ultimately receive more tax revenue.

Practical first steps towards changing the status quo: The EO and the Hotels and Restaurants Association commission a survey of tourists to ascertain the impact of the tax on their destination decision; the EO's airline members provide data on the decrease in passenger numbers since the tax came into effect; figures attained from the Tourist Board show a drop off in number of tourists since the tax was established (although this is also related to other factors).

Resistance to change: The State-run airport authority that will use the tax revenue to partly fund a new terminal.

To determine the likelihood of change and whether the EO should purse the proposal, some essential questions need to be addressed.

Is the “change” that the EO wants to affect a realistic proposition? 
It is capable of receiving broad support
Other stakeholders can be supportive of the proposal as a whole or key elements of it
To what extent is there dissatisfaction with the status quo? 
Enough interest groups will support the proposal for change
Other stakeholders such as the general public or media, if shown a ‘new future’ would be supportive
Dissatisfaction with the status quo is growing
Has the EO articulated a clear vision of what a ‘new future’ could look like? 
It can genuinely show benefits outweigh any costs
The proposal is shown to be practical and realistic in terms of implementation and application
The proposal can be portrayed to impact positively on jobs and people’s lives
How great will the resistance to change be? 
The opposition to the proposal can be divided or split
The power relations between winners and losers affected by the changed status is favourable
There are identifiable subgroups that can be targeted to support certain elements of the proposal

(1) Supporting Business Environment Reforms Practical Guidance for Development Agencies DCED 2008

(2) Adapted from David Gleicher's formula Beckhard, R 1969 Organization Development: Strategies and Models, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA