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Commissioning a policy project

Quality commissioning is the starting point for producing quality policy advice.

Many different things can initiate the need to produce policy advice. Ministers regularly ask for it. External events can precipitate the need for it. Our organisation’s management team may want some. Whatever initiates the demand for policy advice, getting it produced requires someone (often fairly senior) commissioning a member of the policy team to start doing the policy work.

Commissioning involves the exchange of ideas to define a policy project at the outset. Done well, it develops a shared understanding of what’s to be delivered, why, for whom, by when, and how.

Good commissioning helps you:

  • have open conversations that explore the policy issue and approach
  • develop a shared understanding of what is needed
  • reduce undue rework, saving time and effort.


Start Right is a guide designed by the Policy Project and experienced New Zealand policy practitioners to support you in making the best start to a policy project. There are three parts to Start Right:

  • Commissioning conversations – the beginning that provides the initial impetus and information for your project.
  • Exploration – the scalable set of initial actions at the early stage of a project – including data gathering, analysis and project planning.
  • Green Light – the confirmation (based on your Exploration) of the main parameters to begin.

Your policy agency may also have developed additional tools to support good commissioning. We suggest you find out what your agency has available.

Last updated: 
Friday, 27 November 2020

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