Getting Started with the Policy Readiness Tool

The Policy Readiness Tool is divided into four key sections. It is important to review each section in the order presented to receive the full benefit of the Policy Readiness Tool.

  1. Introduction to Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory
    This section will introduce you to Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory and explain key concepts underlying the Policy Readiness Tool.
  2. A Note on Policy Change
    Review this section for recommendations on how best to apply the Policy Readiness Tool.
  3. Assessing Readiness for Policy Change
    This section includes a questionnaire that you can use to identify a community or organization’s level of readiness for policy change (i.e., Innovator, Majority or Late Adopter).
  4. Key Strategies for Policy Change
    This section includes key strategies for encouraging policy change. The strategies are tailored to different levels of policy readiness. A list of recommended resources is also provided in this section.

Introduction to Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory

Diffusion of Innovations Theory is used by individuals and organizations to better understand the process of change for innovations. The concepts of innovativeness and adopter categories are central to Diffusion of Innovations Theory.1
An innovation can refer to a wide variety of things, such as a new idea, practice or product, as long as the item in question is considered new by the unit (e.g., individual, organization or municipality) considering its adoption.1 For the Policy Readiness Tool, the innovation is represented by the policy that the community or organization is being encouraged to adopt.

A unit’s level of innovation is influenced by “the degree to which an individual or other unit of adoption is relatively earlier in adopting new ideas than the other members of a system” (p. 22).1 For example, a community’s level of innovation is determined by whether it adopts a new policy before or after other communities in the same province or country.

Rogers’ adopter categories classify potential adopters (of the innovation) based on their level of innovativeness.1 To enhance use of the Policy Readiness Tool, we have collapsed Rogers’ five original adopter types into three categories: (1) Innovators, (2) Majority and (3) Late Adopters. To read more about Rogers’ five adopter categories, refer to the Appendix.
Innovators are described as “adventurous” and often serve as role models within their social networks.  They are attracted by high-reward initiatives (e.g., policy or bylaws) and have a greater tendency to take risks. Innovators have the ability to cope with elevated levels of uncertainty associated with the innovation. They are typically willing to cope with initial problems that may accompany innovations and are able to identify solutions to these problems.

The Majority are described as “deliberate” because they require time to determine whether to adopt a new initiative. This group seldom leads the pack when it comes to adopting a new initiative and is of the philosophy that it is better to change as a group than to be one of the first to change.  Considering this, the Majority tend to adopt innovations at about the same time as the average adopter.

Late Adopters are described as “traditional”, and are often skeptical of new ideas and eager to maintain the status quo. They usually wait until the majority of others have adopted an innovation before implementing it themselves. Late Adopters may need to be pressured into adoption. They may also never adopt the innovation unless required to.

 

A Note on Policy Change

“Policy work is a long road, which requires a sustained effort. It’s often about small, incremental changes and successes. But when it all comes together, the positive impact for the population as a whole is well-worth the effort.” – APCCP Policy Analyst 

Prior to undertaking any type of policy advocacy, it is important to recognize the complex nature of the policy change process. Policy work often involves countless actors (community members, advocates, decision-makers, municipal administrative staff, etc.), organizations and competing interests, and can take a great deal of time and energy before policy outcomes are realized.2

The Policy Readiness Tool was designed to help those interested in encouraging policy change to target their involvement in the often-complex policy process. Yet, it is important to remember that Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory is a static model being used to describe a dynamic process. For this reason, you must remain cautious when applying the Policy Readiness Tool. Always remember to leave room to act on unexpected opportunities and to alter your strategies to respond to changes in the political, economic and moral economy.

For more information on the policy change process, refer to the resources section.
 
 
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REFERENCES

  1. Everett M. Rogers. (2003). Diffusions of Innovations Theory (5th ed). New York: Free Press
  2. Sabatier, P.A. (2007). The Need for Better Theories. In P. Sabatier (Eds.), Theories of the Policy Process (pp. 3-17). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.