The new Policy Lab was officially launched by the Open Policy Making team in the UK Cabinet Office on 1 April, with Dr Andrea Siodmok as its Head.

Andrea brings with her a wealth of experience from former roles as an advisor to the Technology Strategy Board, Cornwall Council’s Chief Designer and as Chief Design Officer at the Design Council. Congratulations to Andrea and the Open Policy Making team!

The Policy Lab is the first its kind in UK and will work with policy teams to test how design principles and methods can improve the ‘pace, quality and deliverability of policy in the Civil Service’. It’s modelled on a number of international examples, particularly MindLab in Denmark and Helsinki Design Lab in Finland (pictured above). Other precedents include The LAB at the Office of Personnel Management in Washington DC and DesignGov in Australia.

MindLab, Denmark

The Policy Lab is important because a huge amount of design training work has taken place in central government in the past year, but until now there hasn’t been a clear way to embed learning in live policy development and day-to-day working. It’s also important because much design work has taken place on service delivery in the UK but very little on the policies which sit behind frontline services.

Interest in design as a methodology for connecting new ideas with end user needs has grown significantly within central government. The major driver is the Cabinet Office’s Civil Service Reform Plan (2012), and the Design Council has delivered training sessions to several hundred central government civil servants since early 2013.

Design Council service delivery workshop with Lewisham Council

Other Design Council work on live policy development is showing early insights on how design can aid policy teams.

Particularly,

  • bringing together diverse stakeholder groups
  • generating more ideas for legislation and policy change
  • introducing rich ethnographic insights into policy development 
  • mapping out the whole policy development process whilst retaining a detailed view of different steps

However, knowledge of how and when design adds value to policy development is limited. More evidence of impact and clear examples are needed. Lessons on the best language to communicate design and policy work, spaces used, gaining endorsement from leadership and ways to support uptake of new methods introduced in training session are also required.

The Policy Lab will be an important conduit for design work in UK policy development, and we are very excited to see it underway.

To keep up with the agenda you can follow @PolicyLabUK and Open Policy Making team.

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