Policy makers are people too

Policy Makers are People Too – The title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek as I do have considerable respect for policy makers and the difficult choices they have to make. I use the title to illustrate that policy makers, like all people, can be persuaded and it is in this persuasion that there are opportunities to improve outcomes for the leveraging of technology to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and reduce negative environmental impacts.

There are two aspects of working with policy makers that I would like to highlight. The first is a phenomenon that Jay Ingram spoke of at a national summit on the cleantech sector that I Chaired. To put it briefly people come with predispositions that make them likely to see the world a certain way. In the broad sense whether you are more individualistic or communitarian, hierarchical or egalitarian will have a significant impact on your interpretation of the world. No amount of scientific evidence, particularly where the individual does not have the background to make a definitive call either way, would unseat a deeply held value system. One need not look any further than the gun control debates in the US for a recent example of this with the climate change debate being another longstanding example.

The second challenge for the cleantech sector in particular is the fragmented nature of the proponents’ messaging. Think about it; wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy, electric vehicles, nuclear energy and so on, each group with its own associations, lobbyists, reasons why they are better than the other guy and asks for the future. Are you beginning to understand my empathy for the job policy makers have? Entities like the Canadian Cleantech Coalition help to consolidate messaging and purpose but the overall level of organisation across sustainable technologies is a far cry from the well oiled machine (pardon the pun) of the petrochemical industry as an example.

So where does that leave us? Well, there is room for credible, non-partisan perspectives on the variety of sustainable pathways available. Crosstaff is currently working with the engineering community on just such a project. Even when the multitude of messages are filtered or consolidated in some rational way, if one of your goals is to influence policy, you will also have to account for the multitude of world views of the receiving audience as well and plan accordingly.

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