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Innovation in Democracy

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Last week Policy Lab facilitated three workshops (in London, York and Bristol) for the Innovation in Democracy programme. Run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), this programme will support 8-10 Local Authorities to run their own citizen assemblies, as well as sharing the learning more widely. Policy Lab’s workshops were designed to prepare the attendees - who numbered roughly 100 across the three days - for the practicalities of filling in the Expression of Interest form, as well as helping them to generate ideas for their citizens assemblies.

A group of local authorities at one of our events discussing the evidence
Bringing people together to co-design

I have just joined Policy Lab as a Policy Designer. I come straight from a Masters in Medical Anthropology, preceded by a professional background encompassing data analysis, research, product design and illustration. The London and York workshops were my first two days at Policy Lab. These workshops were the perfect introduction to the work of the team, not least because they represented a double-dose of innovation (being a new DCMS and MHCLG project facilitated by Policy Lab’s innovative design approach).

Throughout the workshops I joined attendees on their journey through sharing their hopes and fears for the project, to building empathy with key stakeholders, to identifying challenges and quick-fire solutions.

The murmur of approval in the room when attendees were asked ‘What’s the wrong solution?’ followed shortly after by ‘What’s the opposite of that?’ was palpable, and is testament to the way in which Policy Lab’s approaches can turn a problem on its head, and allows people to approach it from a different angle. The workshops were also filled with fun, creative techniques, high-quality graphics and lots of imagination - all key components, I am quickly learning, of a Policy Lab experience.

Three attendees at a recent co-design event looking at some evidence cards that gave examples from other countries
Surveying the evidence

As ever, in our commitment to open policy making, we have made the resources we designed for this project publicly available. The promise of making them available online was also a necessary protection against the frequent threat of resource theft (which we take as a big compliment)! We hope they will be useful for attendees to revisit, and for local authorities - who weren’t able to attend - to use in their own time. We have also put together a handy one-page guide for using the tools, so as to make them accessible for anyone else who is interested in citizens assemblies, or in the Lab approach more generally.

Most of all, we hope the resources can be used by citizens to co-design what they want out of citizen assemblies.

By Rachel Bruce, Policy Designer in Policy Lab

A picture of a worksheet we used to elicit attendees' hopes and fears for the work. They were asked to imagine what a 'best case' and a 'worst case' scenario might be like.
Some materials in use

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  1. Comment by Jerry Connolly posted on

    Can I ask where you are with developing models of engagement, and also which local authorities might be being involved?


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