Why policy is like... poetry

Sensemaking / Why policy is like... poetry

Anna Simpson explains why you shouldn’t be surprised to find inspiration at a policy roundtable.

20 Sep 2011

Anna Simpson explains why you shouldn’t be surprised to find inspiration at a policy roundtable.

It was one of the last balmy lunchtimes of the summer, and a bunch of Forumites had gathered in the park. We were there for a workshop led by Em Wilkinson from Mindful Maps on using creativity to ‘make’ change: taking the world around us to bits and putting it back together differently.

Before we went off to look for scraps of that day in the park to inspire us (anything from discarded coffee cups to lost tourists) we had a quick discussion about what creativity means to each of us. For some it meant ‘doing’ and ‘making’ in a carefree way: getting your fingers sticky with paints and glue. For others it meant seeing the world differently – and some linked this to a sense of freedom. If you were ‘being creative’ you could break the rules, or even do without rules.

Breaking the rules is all very well, I thought, as I pulled the dead fibres of a leaf away from its arteries – but you need some sort of form. Take a poem. Yes, lots of poetry is now free in its form, but it’s rarely free of form: perhaps less set than sonnet, but more structured than prose. For me, form is a great enabler – even if you make the rules up yourself. It’s the house where you hold the party.

That evening I went to Green Mondays, and sat on the policy roundtable where the topic was electricity market reform. I can’t say it’s the sort of thing that sets my heart racing. I chose that table because I feel I should know more about policy. I spend lots of time researching and writing about the colourful things entrepreneurs and pioneering business leaders are doing – but (I admit) very little time thinking about the structures and regulations they’re up against.

I was going to take notes assiduously and go away feeling virtuous. Then, someone said something I wasn’t expecting. “Policy has to be clear. It’s only then that business can get creative.”

And the penny dropped. Policy isn’t just a boring fence that poor creative souls must fight against. It’s the place where change can happen. It’s part of the art.

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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