In my view one of the most exciting things about Policy Lab has been its ability to work both in and outside the Whitehall system at the same time. When people asked me about the reasons for its success, I’d cite our unique position within Cabinet Office combining the fresh perspective from designers and other experts, along with the pragmatism of policy-makers who really understand how it works within government.
Vasant has written before about the importance of empathising with the Lab’s commissioners - policy-makers. I’d always thought of myself as a policy-maker, but over time I started to realise my day-to-day policy experience was becoming something of a distant memory. Yes, I could see the pressures teams I worked with were having to grapple with. But I hadn’t been regularly handling that many PQs, briefings and board papers. The Lab has different pressures, across a broad range of projects, so if a policy challenge was stuck in some way I could always briefly turn my attention to something else.
I was also curious: what type of policy-maker am I now? How has everything I’ve learnt over the past four years affected me? What were the different ways of effecting change in a system?
I genuinely believe Labs are a crucial part of the answer to improving policy-making. The Lab’s unique position gave us the space to experiment, push boundaries, reflect and learn. But the Policy Lab is a really small team in a huge system. So much of its impact comes from the people the team works with: how their experience with Lab changes their practice. The Policy Lab now has a network of ambassadors (including me), as well as a growing number of similar teams in departments.
I’m immensely proud of being part of the Policy Lab story over the last five years. We took it from a couple of lines in the 2012 civil service reform plan to an incredible team that just keeps getting better. The huge range of policy challenges I have worked on over the years, and the new methods we experimented with, kept me intellectually interested. My colleagues and the 1,000s of policy makers, experts and people affected who we worked with inspired me every day.
So whilst it’s with a heavy heart that I’m moving on, I’m also incredibly excited. My new role is in the Cities & Local Growth Unit and I can’t think of a better place to put my skills to use. Helping build a stronger and more inclusive economy where everyone’s potential is realised can only happen if it’s led by those affected. I hope that my learning from Lab will help me make that a reality.