An important difficulty in developing spoken dialogue systems for robots is the open-ended nature of most interactions. Robotic agents must typically operate in complex, continuously changing environments which are difficult to model and do not provide any clear, predefined goal. Directly capturing this complexity in a single, large dialogue policy is thus inadequate. This paper presents a new approach which tackles the complexity of open-ended interactions by breaking it into a set of small, independent policies, which can be activated and deactivated at runtime by a dedicated mechanism. The approach is currently being implemented in a spoken dialogue system for autonomous robots.