Service Design in Gov: User Centred Policy Design fishbowl — September 2022

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Allen

Back in May 2022, Mark Dalgarno approached me asking for feedback on a session proposal for Service Design in Government on ‘What is user-centred policy design good for?’

This was to be a participatory (fishbowl) discussion to bring together the voices of the curious, the practitioners and the ‘experts’ to share what works, what hasn’t worked and how we might do things differently.

Whilst reading the opening sentence, I found myself offering to co-facilitate with Mark — after all, I’d led the User Centred Policy Design team of the Ministry of Justice, and know some things, but mostly because Mark and I had passed each other like GovShips in the night* and I’d never had the opportunity to work with him.

Designing and delivering this session together was joyful.

Firstly, because Mark suggested that we pitched the idea to a few UCPD experts (and friends) who could help ‘seed’ the discussion — as stepping into the fishbowl can feel a bit intimidating. We reached out to Alejandra, Andy and Darius. I’d been lucky to work with Ale at MOJ and Andy through the Policy Design community, but Darius was another GovShip in the night so I was really thrilled to be hearing about his experiences. All three said yes 💃🏼

Our session was right at the end of the day, which worked really well because the morning’s agenda had Andy and Lucy’s 1:1 discussion on ‘Public policy design: making design core business for government’ and Liam and Charlotte (from the Home Office policy lab) presented on ‘How service ownership can help deliver better policy outcomes’ — so we had a nice ‘runway’ of content to lead into our fishbowl discussion. Plus those sessions were a slightly different format (presentations on a main stage as opposed to group discussion) so folks were buzzing with ideas to share.

Saying that, we did have the fear that topics might run dry and so Mark and I prepared a few questions/talking points to have in our back pocket (which we also shared with our lovely ‘panel’ in advance). These included:

[I’d be happy to write about any of those if folks are interested. I’ve got a few policy design blog posts planned….]

So how did the fishbowl go? What conversations took place?

(As this was a Chatham House rules session, I’ve added snippets and have excluded any information that could identify participants. If there’s anything here you’d like removed, you can direct message me on Twitter)

And what would we — as facilitators — do differently?

But also, what went well?

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Allen

*other names are available (#UKGovCrush)



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All things data, digital, design, communities & open culture.