Policy Excellence at the City of Toronto
Policy development is an important part of the work of the City in almost every Division. City staff develop policies and strategies on a range on matters; regularly review services; and, provide advice to senior leadership on changes and innovations to service delivery that require a policy lens.
Examples of broad city-wide policy initiatives that include a range of stakeholder partners include the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and TransformTO which impact many city residents and businesses. All of these contribute to the City’s Corporate Strategic Plan.
Corporate policies that apply to City employees on human resource matters or ensure safety and quality standards in many City service areas are also developed or updated as required.
The City is committed to Policy Excellence in all of this work. Staff create and share policy development resources and facilitate communities of practices to support collaboration.
A key component of the City’s policy development process is engaging with the public and other key stakeholders so that multiple perspectives can be taken into account. Find out more about the City’s current public consultations.
The City’s Policy Development Roadmap outlines the key steps that are often undertaken when developing a policy or strategy.
At the start of the policy or strategy development process, policy developers at the City define and describe the problem being addressed or opportunity being pursued, as well as the results that will be achieved because of the policy or strategy.
A new policy or strategy or an update to an existing one is usually initiated due to one of the following
- It is legislatively required
- A periodic update is identified by City staff
- An arising issue is identified by City staff
- City Council or one of its committees makes a request
- A corporate leadership priority is identified by the City Manager, the Senior Leadership Team or another statutory official
- A Divisional or Service priority is identified by a Division Head
The approach to developing a policy or strategy tends to be a project unto itself. Staff use a project charter to help to ensure the right project stakeholders are engaged at the start of the project and advice can be sought along the way.
Conducting research is a key early stage of policy or strategy development. This may include approaches such as conducting a jurisdictional scan, qualitative or quantitative analysis, or examining various City resources to apply an appropriate lens to analysis. Other large Canadian and international cities, as well as Canadian provinces, are often included in jurisdictional scans at given that Toronto is much larger than most Canadian comparable cities.
Conducting research is a key early stage of policy or strategy development. This may include a jurisdictional scan, qualitative or quantitative analysis, or examining various City resources to apply an appropriate lens to analysis. Information and policies from other large Canadian and international cities, as well as Canadian provinces, are often looked at since Toronto is much larger than most other Canadian cities.
Resources such as Data, Research and Maps and Economic Bulletins are available to both City staff and the public that contain valuable information about the complexity of Toronto’s population, context and needs. These are used to inform City policies and strategies and also used by City partners such as academic institutions, business and not-for-profit organizations to improve the lives of Torontonians.
Developing policy options can look quite different depending on the subject matter. Establishing criteria to guide the selection of possible options is good practice before developing recommendations. Ensuring that options relate back to what was defined in early stages of the problem statement is also useful. Developing enough alternate solutions or options can help ensure that consultations with stakeholders provide for robust input.
Engagement describes the ways in which we develop and support relationships with other City divisions as well as residents and other stakeholders including non-profit organizations, business, City agencies and corporations. It helps ensure that the public interest is met by the policy or strategy that is developed.
Gathering stakeholder concerns and feedback through consultation meetings, surveys, advisory groups and other methods is a valuable source of information that can be used to improve the design and outcomes of policies and strategies, and is especially important if the success of the policy depends on partners to support or co-deliver it.
The City’s encourages residents to Get Involved and shares information about the City’s public consultations and other opportunities for input to ensure resident views are part of the policy development process.
Once a draft policy or strategy has incorporated research and consultation findings, a cycle of feedback is undertaken leading to approvals by City Council or a City official.
Subject matter expert or key stakeholder reviews vary based on the policy or strategy being developed. Reviews may be conducted by Steering Committees, Divisional Directors or Division Heads as required.
Corporate reviews may also be required by:
- City Manager’s Office
- City Clerk’s Office
- Financial Planning
- Legal Services
- Strategic Communications
Review and final approvals vary based on the policy or strategy being developed and its required authority, which may be:
- Division Heads
- Deputy City Managers
- Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer
- City Manager
- Committee of Council
- City Council
Once a policy or strategy is approved, ongoing or periodic monitoring and evaluation is important to ensure that intended outcomes are being achieved and/or policy objectives are being met. Performance management includes a systemic approach to measuring and assessing results.
Results Based Accountability (RBA) is one approach for performance measurement and accountability that the City uses. RBA offers three questions to guide performance measurement:
- How much did we do?
- How well did we do it?
- Is anyone better off?
These questions form a good starting point to developing an ongoing or periodic monitoring and evaluation plan for a policy or strategy.