Anne-Marie Slaughter Cites 5 Ways to Update Policy-Making and Teaching in Inaugural Schar School Colloquium Lecture

By Buzz McClain

The methods of solving public problems are evolving in today’s world, and practitioners, as well as the schools that teach public policy-making, need to modernize their processes or face failure, said Anne-Marie Slaughter.

That was the message delivered by Slaughter, a longtime political scientist and president and CEO of New America, a Washington, D.C., think- and-“action”-tank, as she delivered the inaugural lecture of the Dwight Schar Colloquium Speaker Series this week at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. An audience of about 120, including many Schar School faculty members and students, attended the hour-long talk at Mason’s Founders Hall Auditorium in Arlington, Va.

Slaughter’s idea of new public problem-solving skirts the current mindset of changing policy strictly through government agencies by uniting both public and private entities.

She enumerated a five-step methodology that begins with engaging those affected by the problem “instead of engaging the problem itself,” she said. 

Other steps:

  • “Begin the process by scouting.” Chances are, Slaughter suggested, “someone has already solved the problem. Scout for existing solutions.”
  • Start small. “Roll out the idea, find the errors, and then improve it,” she said. Once the solution seems to work, scale it up.
  • “Use real-time data” in developing and monitoring policy changes, she said. She cited the example of how the Obama-era rollout of HealthCare.gov “got it wrong; it was a disaster.” Instead, Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that provides volunteer crisis support via text messaging, uses up-to-the-minute human-viewed data “in the service of solving a public problem” by immediately analyzing data for more accurate service.
  • Scale up by connecting those who will ultimately implement policy and strategize those connections.

The next speaker in the Schar School’s Dwight Schar Colloquium Speaker Series will be announced later in the year.