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Introduction to Policy Lab (Jan 2021)


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We believe that people-centred approaches and experimentation transform policymaking and outcomes for citizens.

Policy Lab is a multidisciplinary team working openly and collaboratively across the UK government and beyond. Sitting on the edge of government, we draw experience from diverse professions, communities and experiences into all our work, combining expertise from policy, design, ethnography, systems thinking, futures and art.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Introduction to Policy Lab (Jan 2021)

  1. 1. People-powered policy innovation
  2. 2. We use people-centred approaches and experimentation to transform policymaking. Policy Lab X Disability Unit (Cabinet Office) ethnographic fieldwork to explore the lived experiences of disabled people (2019-20).
  3. 3. Policy Lab is a multidisciplinary team working openly and collaboratively across government, bringing expertise in policy, ethnography, systems thinking, futures, art and design. We sit on the edge of government, drawing diverse professions, communities and experiences into our work. Policy Lab think tanks, academics, design agencies and government bodies.
  4. 4. We support the public sector to achieve better policy outcomes by partnering on innovative projects, leading and demonstrating best practice, and delivering training. Policy Lab X Department for Transport using virtual reality to allow policymakers and stakeholders to experience different street designs around the world (2018).
  5. 5. Why we do what we do: system-level culture change in policymaking is more important than ever
  6. 6. Our world is increasingly complex and ambiguous, full of interrelations and uncertainties. Our methods help policymakers understand and untangle complexity. Policy Lab X Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy project using system mapping to understand carbon emissions from industrial clusters (2019).
  7. 7. Our approach enables policymakers to challenge assumptions about how people interact with policies and test different solutions to understand what works. Policy Lab X HM Courts and Tribunal Services project using speculative design to challenge and test citizens’ ideas about ‘open justice’ - the principle that justice should be done openly and transparently.
  8. 8. In the UK, there are over 23,000 policymakers1 working to support ministers to develop policy. Our purpose is to inspire the policy community by demonstrating next practice and growing a network of innovators across government. 1 Civil Service Statistics 2019 Policy Lab X Geospatial Commission project to open a discussion around the evidence for the National Geospatial Strategy between the policy team and their partner bodies. (2018).
  9. 9. Since 2014, we have partnered with policy teams on over 100 projects, working with 7,000 public servants across central and local government departments and agencies, as well as internationally. Policy Lab is now multi-award winning, and one of the world’s longest-standing government Labs dedicated to policy innovation. British Embassy Zagreb British Embassy Buenos Aires
  10. 10. Our projects test new approaches which bring lived experience and experimentation into policymaking. We share our new tools and techniques openly on our blog and the Open Policy Making Toolkit to encourage system-wide transformation. Policy Lab X British Embassy Zagreb running an ‘Open Climate Policy Lab’ with 15-30 year olds to develop solutions to climate change using the ‘Government as a System’ framework (2020).
  11. 11. A design approach to policy: valuing diversity of evidence and perspectives to reduce bias and risk when developing policy
  12. 12. Discover Define Develop Deliver Challenge Setting Outcome Co-design User research Ethnography Systems mapping Participatory making Speculative design In-depth Interviews Prototyping Gamification Stress testing Foresight Public engagement Let’sexplore som ething Let’sreflectand learn Let’sexplore m ore Let’sm ake a decision User testing Policy Lab has developed a range of methods within the Design Council’s ‘Double Diamond’ framework. Together they bring an evidence-based, iterative approach to projects, from challenge setting to delivering outcomes. This reduces risk, first by avoiding jumping to solutions, and then by enabling rapid prototyping and testing of ideas.
  13. 13. Policy design Our policy design projects have included supporting policy teams to research and develop: ● A new regulatory framework for autonomous ships (Maritime and Coastguard Agency, 2020) ● The Social Housing Green Paper (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 2018) ● Involved: a platform to increase youth involvement in government consultation (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 2019) ● Online crime reporting services in England and Wales (Home Office, 2015) Policy Lab X Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport project using co-design with young people to develop a new online platform, bringing young people’s voices into policymaking - Involved launched summer 2020.
  14. 14. Policy challenge and reflection Our methods have been used to inform: ● Windrush Lessons Learnt Review by Wendy Williams (Home Office, 2018-20) ● Landscapes Review by Julian Glover (Defra, 2018) ● Independent Review of Prevent (Home Office, ongoing) ● National Food Strategy by Henry Dimbleby (Defra, ongoing) Policy Lab X Home Office collaboration to bring the voices of the Windrush generation into Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learnt Review, using film ethnography (2018-2020).
  15. 15. Advice and training We advise government departments and multinational institutions to develop their own innovation capabilities. We’ve recently supported the Civil Service Faststream, Ashridge Global Business School, the United Nations and the UK Mission in Croatia. We have trained thousands of officials at UK government policy schools, from new graduates to senior leaders - as well as internationally for governments in the UAE, South Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, and Canada. Policy Lab X United Nations co-designing tools for collaborative policy development, to enable representation from diverse staff in the UN’s geographically distributed organisation (2019).
  16. 16. Adapting to a changing world
  17. 17. source: design Council Distributed teamwork and collaboration We’re now working as a distributed team, embracing new methods and technology to continue bringing lived experience, experimentation and collaboration into policymaking.
  18. 18. source: design Council Remote ethnographic research We have adapted our qualitative ethnographic research methods to social distancing restrictions, using a mix of remote video diaries and interviews. This approach allows us to gather insights over time and is already being used by the Cabinet Office Disability Unit and the Race Disparity Unit.
  19. 19. source: design Council Virtually co-designing futures We co-created a range of possible 2030 post-Covid futures to inform and support challenge around future investment decisions. We brought the future scenarios to life through written and graphic storytelling techniques, alongside the creation of ‘speculative artefacts’ to help policymakers situate themselves in the future. We then used a turn-based gameplay approach, deployed in remote workshops, to both enable quieter voices to be heard, and diversify the types of insight generated.
  20. 20. source: design Council Diversity and Inclusion In 2019 Policy Lab teamed up with the Civil Service Inclusion Team to understand how civil servants working across the country experience both inclusion and exclusion in their jobs, particularly those working remotely. Our user research drew insight from more than 800 civil servants. A further 15 then participated in a fully remote co-design workshop, where we used our research insights to develop the ‘Little Book of Remote Working’. Since launching during the first Covid lockdown, the Little Book of Remote Working has been shared via word-of-mouth and as a flagship piece of communication during the Civil Service National Inclusion Week, helping colleagues across government to adapt during the pandemic.
  21. 21. Work with us We are a small cost-recovering team, always on the lookout for exciting new projects and motivated partners to work with. The criteria we use to decide on projects include budget, our capacity, strategic importance and opportunities to experiment. How to commission us? Send your project ideas and timescales to us at source: design Council
  22. 22. @PolicyLabUK