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On blogging, silence and contemplation #2

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Policy Lab will be going quiet over the next five weeks. The election period means that some of our research, communications and engagement work will be put on hold. If you are a new policy-maker wondering how this all works, the government provides comprehensive election guidance for civil servants online

This is a time when we have some space to collect our thoughts and consider what has worked best in our projects and in our communications, and what things we need to improve. This blog follows a similar one written by our previous Lab Lead, Beatrice, back in 2017.

It’s been a busy time for us in recent years, with the Policy Lab team growing significantly. We are working on more projects than ever before: we’ve pioneered the use of speculative design in government policy, for the first time published some of our film ethnographic research and, on top of all this, have explored innovative methods in new policy spaces. This means we have learnt a lot, but not always had the time to be good as we should be at sharing what we have learnt. Stephen’s recent ‘Long Read’ on the policy consultation process is a start, but we know we need to improve. 

Policy Lab was expressly established to build capability and share learning across the Civil Service. We work with thousands of civil servants each year in our projects, workshops and training sessions. We know that people are using, adapting and developing our tools across the public sector. It’s great to walk around government buildings and see the prototype Styles of Government Action framework on the walls. It’s encouraging to still be in meetings where our ‘change cards’ are brought out. We can’t take the credit, but we love hearing words like ‘early stage prototype’ or ‘lived experience research’ becoming commonplace in policy-maker discourse across government. 

All that said, we are always keen to turn the mirror on ourselves, to better understand our own users and what we offer to policy teams. This summer we worked with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s Policy Exploration Team to do just that and invited them to share the user research insights on our blog. Now, with the addition of a service designer to the Lab team, we are starting to consider 'Policy Lab as a service' to policy teams across government, situated at the heart of an emerging ecosystem and community of public sector design labs, both in the UK and internationally.

So we’ll be back in a few weeks. And our silence doesn't mean we can't listen - we'd love to know what you'd like to see us doing more of. Importantly, our research on civil service matters goes on: we are inviting civil servants far-and-wide to respond to our short research survey about inclusion in the workplace - it only takes 5 minutes.

In the meantime, we'll be getting out to Play Well at the Wellcome Collection gallery, following the International Design in Government Conference, and cluing ourselves up on the role for design in tackling climate change as the UK prepares to host the global climate change summit next year.  

See you in December!

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