Interview Guide – The Policy Network Perspective

For the Water Act Modernization (WAM) Process case study, data collection centres on semi-structured interviews with key BC Government public service individuals (both active and former employees) who were involved in the WAM Process. The following is a rough guide to the areas I’d like to discuss in the interview. Though it reads as a series of questions, the format of the interview is a lot less structured than this implies. As a semi-structured interview format, the conversation will follow the paths that you are most interested to talk about. I am most interested in your perspective on the WAM Process, so the interview will follow how you see that process and focus on the aspects that you are most interested in. And when it comes to analyzing the interview transcripts, I’ll be taking what is called an inductive approach which centres on what the respondents add to the conversation, rather than focussing on the things that I might be looking for.

The interview is scheduled to last approximately 45 minutes. To reiterate the interview process (which I may have communicated to you elsewhere), I would like to audio-record our conversation direct to digital file. I would then type-up a verbatim transcript of the interview and email it to you. You are welcome to amend, add or delete as you wish, and the amended transcript will be used for data analysis. Your comments will be treated in complete confidence: you will not be identified by name or position in the reporting, and any quotes that are used will be stripped of any content that could be used to identify you. Complete details on the participant research ethics protections can be found in the accompanying post:

Policy Network Perspective – Interview Guide

Section 1: Introductory Questions about your work with the B.C. Government as it relates to the practice of policy analysis.

1. How would you explain to someone – in a social setting, for example – your job as a B.C. Government public servant?

Follow-up probes: How long with the government? Different experiences? Policy orientation or other?

Section 2: Questions about your work on the Water Act Modernization Process.

2. What was your specific role in the WAM Process?

Follow-up probes: How long did you work on it? Was this a central activity for you over the past several years? Of the two phases that have been the focus of the process thus far (Phase 1 – Scoping, jurisdictional review and background research, and Phase 2 – Engagement and policy development), were you involved in one Phase more than the other?

3. What were your initial impressions were when you first learned about the WAM Process?

Follow-up probes: When you first heard about it, did you know that you would be working on it? Did it strike you as a necessary initiative? Before starting work on it, did you feel it would be a useful exercise? Did your work on the WAM process resonate with your other work as distinct from WAM?

4. After working on the WAM Process for some time, have your feelings about the necessity and usefulness of the initiative changed?

Follow-up probes: With respect to the process (not the idea of modernizing the Water Act, but the process itself), have your views changed over time? Are you satisfied with the process? Are you satisfied with progress achieved to date?

Section 3: Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration

5. Can you describe a time during your work on the WAM process when you were faced with a new policy issue or problem that you had little previous experience with or knowledge about?

Follow-up probes: How did you go about finding information? Was there documentation held by your organizational unit – perhaps stored on the share-drive or in the files – that was helpful? Was it easy to find, or difficult? Did you consult outside published sources – websites, for example, or printed reports? How did you find them? Were your colleagues in this unit helpful? Did you have to look beyond this unit for help? Did you connect directly with individuals outside the unit? How did you know whom to contact? How did you find the right people? How did you connect with them? Did you call them? Email? Other?

6. Can you give an example from the Water Act Modernization process when you collaborated effectively with BC Government colleagues in other divisions or other Ministries to jointly solve an issue?

Follow-up probes: Did the instance you’re describing occur spontaneously as a consequence of dealing with the issue, or were you instructed or encouraged by someone else to collaborate on it? Would you call this example of collaboration a standard approach to problem solving by you or this unit? Is it something you do where the situation calls for it? Or is it fairly rare? Would you characterize the collaboration as successful? Did collaborating present any particular challenges? Did your organizational unit play a lead role, or a secondary role? If lead role, were other collaborators cooperative? If secondary role, would you characterize the lead agency as collaborative? Transparent? Open? If you had to characterize the way the ad hoc collaborating group communicated as between electronic communication (including document sharing) and face-to-face meetings, which mode was dominant?

7. There are times in government where individuals or organizational units can sometimes work for the benefit of that person or unit, but to the detriment of the overall government’s interests – things like not sharing information, a lack of transparency or a demonstrated lack of commitment to a process. Clearly, this type of behaviour runs counter to the principles of collaboration. Without mentioning any specific names or organizational units, is there an example from the Water Act Modernization process when you felt that another BC Government actor or unit involved in the process was acting contrary to the principles of open, transparent collaboration?

Follow-up probes: Was their position or the motivation for their behaviour clear to you? Did you understand why they were acting the way they were? Did you or anyone else raise this behaviour as a concern? Indirectly, within your own unit or with other trusted colleagues? Directly with the person or org unit? Did this behaviour have a negative impact on the WAM Process? Was the issue ever resolved? What strategies did you or your colleagues use to minimize the impact or resolve the issue?

Section 4: Experience with the impact of internal collaborative technology on cross-government policy collaboration

I’m interested in the impact that collaboration technologies are having on policy formulation in government. By collaboration technology, I’m thinking of technologies like a wiki, document co-authoring (maybe using Sharepoint) or a blog or even Twitter, Yammer or Facebook (though not email).

8. Can you give an example when you used collaboration technology to coordinate work, engage with other divisions or Ministries, and collaborate on a Water Act Modernization Process issue?

Follow-up probes: Did the instance you’ve described happen spontaneously or were you prompted by someone else to use the technology? Would you say you personally supported the use of the technology, were neutral, or opposed its use? Would you characterize the collaboration as successful? If successful: Was the technology useful in promoting successful collaboration. Was it successful regardless of the technology? Was it successful in spite of the technology? If unsuccessful: Was the technology in some way at fault for failing to promote successful collaboration. Was the collaboration unsuccessful regardless of the technology? Was it unsuccessful despite the suitability of the technology? Did using the collaboration technology present any particular challenges or cause any problems? Did you or this policy unit play a lead role, or a secondary role? If lead role, did other collaborators use the technology effectively? If secondary role, would you characterize the lead agency as effective in leading the use of the technology? If you had to identify the primary benefit to using collaboration technology in support of cross-Ministry or cross-Government collaboration, what would it be: time saving (quicker)? fewer meetings? less travel? paper saving? increased involvement across government? fun / interesting? remote engagement (asynchronous)?

Section 5: Experience with the impact of externally-oriented citizen engagement technology on the WAM process

The WAM Process placed a strong emphasis on citizen engagement and stakeholder involvement: e.g., launching the Living Water Smart Blog, inviting submissions in response to principles, goals, supporting objectives and possible solutions identified in the WAM Discussion Paper and Technical Background Report, mounting the MoE-led series of 12 one-day public workshops across the province during March and April 2010 (which attracted 0ver 500 participants and generated 900 written submissions from a range of stakeholders). I’m curious about the effect that this external engagement has on the internal-to-government WAM Process.

9. Can you describe a time when the WAM Process experienced a conflict between internal cohesiveness or a coherent Government position and those external influences (e.g., opposing viewpoints of the external stakeholders of different Ministries, or differing networks leading to alternative perspectives on a policy problem)?

Follow-up probes: Were different Ministries or organizational units affected differently by different external influences? Was this conflict resolved? How? Were you satisfied with the outcome? Did collaborative technology play a role in generating the conflict or in its resolution? Did the enhanced level of citizen engagement support the development of a coherent Government position, or was it a challenge to manage? Did the perspectives of some external stakeholders serve to strengthen your Ministry’s position in discussion with colleagues from other ministries? Were the innovations in citizen engagement – particularly the Living Water Smart blog – helpful in the WAM Process?

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