During 2014-2015 I spent three days a week embedded as an academic researcher in Policy Lab, a team in the Cabinet Office working closely with government departments and with the UK Civil Service’s policy profession. This was enabled by a fellowship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council while I was principal research fellow at the University of Brighton, building on other work including Mapping Social Design Research and Practice. Policy Lab is one example of an innovation team inside government, a growing network and set of practices.
The report summarises findings from the research informed by literature in design studies and organisation studies. It uses a format inspired by graphic novels in order to open up the work of interpretation about the role of design approaches in policy making and government.
Some excerpts from the report are below. If you want to (re)use them, please note this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Please use this citation: Kimbell, L. and Macdonald. H. (2015). Applying Design Approaches to Policy Making: Discovering Policy Lab. University of Brighton.
Click to download report (6MB, PDF)
What is the difference that Policy Lab’s approach makes to policy making?
1 What the Lab approach is/does
Lab’s approach problematises policy making – it’s not just exploring new tools, techniques and new data. Policy Lab connects/reassembles/tweens actualities and potentialities, problems and solutions, thinking and doing, inside and outside.
The key characteristics of this approach are that it is based in:
- Abductive discovery, through which insights, guesses, framings and concepts emerge eg ethnographic research, co-design, prototyping in the fuzzy front end of policy making.
- Collective inquiry – through which problems and solutions co-evolve, which is participatory, and through which constituents of an issue are identified and recognised, and solutions are tested eg prototyping.
- Recombining experiences, resources and policies – the constituents of an issue – into new (temporary) configurations.
2 What Lab approach results in – its impact which we can seek proxy measures for
Project level – Relating to the policy area
- New insights, guesses, framings
- Plausible concepts for artifact-experience bundles
- Prototyped proofs of concept – “proto policies”
- An issue team/public engaged in a collective inquiry engaging with a more ordered problem
Capabilities in within the policy profession and wider ecosystem
- Reordered relations between actors in an issue (inside and outside an issue)
- Reordered relations between actors and evidence
- Reordered timings
- Ability to set up and participate effectively in collective inquiries and early-stage abductive exploration
- Awareness of the interdependencies between experiences, resources and policies