Developing policy options to achieve the effective stewardship of natural resources requires understanding of how the status quo performs over the short, medium and long term.

By examining the environmental, economic, social, cultural and political perspectives of each outcome, a comprehensive understanding is gained on whether an outcome is desirable.

The relationships between social systems and environmental systems are complex and include many uncertainties. Taking an adaptive policy approach will help you craft enduring policy which will address uncertainties, avoid limits and irreversibilites, and which will change behaviour.

Identifying a mix of policy instruments will also help you better target change in the incentives people face. It is good practice to go beyond the NRS or central government to include social networks such as industry groups or businesses and communities when you are assessing policy options.


The purpose is to gain an understanding of how the status quo performs over the short, medium and long term, so policy options can be crafted to improve outcomes. The assessment of the status quo can offer additional insight into how policy could be better developed to change people’s behaviour.


The aim is to craft policy options that can respond to change, including any lags in system responses, as well as unexpected effects. These options are compared with the status quo to understand the gains and losses across multiple perspectives.

Tier 1: Tasks


  • Assess status quo outcomes against agreed criteria.
  • Craft new policy options and compare them with the status quo.

Questions to guide analysis

  • What criteria should be used?
  • How does the status quo perform over the short, medium and long term?
  • What mixes of policy instruments best target incentives and behavioural drivers of people over time?
  • What are the differences between the status quo and new policy outcomes?

Tier 2: Reasoning

Look closely at the assumptions and reasons that underlie your analysis to understand them better and test their strength.

Tier 3: Engagement / tools

Engagement opportunities

  • Better understand people’s preferences for options and the impact of options on people.
  • Generate new ideas and options.
  • Build participants’ understanding of options and the case for change.

Useful tools

  • Cost-benefit analysis.
  • Multi-criteria analysis.
  • Deliberative methods.