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Policy Lab collaborates with young people to win the Cabinet Office Innovator Award 2019

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Happy new year from the Policy Lab team! The end of 2019 was dominated by the pre-election period, so we’d like to begin the year by sharing some good news about our work with the DCMS Youth Policy Team and young people. 

Policy Lab is an active advocate for bringing citizen voices into policy making, so we are very excited to announce that we won the Cabinet Office’s 2019 ‘Innovator Award’ for our co-design work with the DCMS Youth and Social Action Team. Through the project young people explored the role they could play in government policy consultations and programme design. As a result, a new Instagram page will launch later this year, run by young people themselves.

The service aims to help policymakers get a youth perspective on key policy questions via polls and help promote live consultations to a more diverse audience. The project builds on the priorities of the Civil Society Strategy (2018) to develop more effective communication channels between young people and central government.

We’re thrilled with the award, but what’s more exciting for us is the spotlight it shines on the people who work with us, both policymakers and those outside government. 

This is an image of the Policy Lab team, Nina Cutler and Sanjan Sabherwal, receiving the Cabinet Office Innovator Award from Carol Bernard with the policy lead Alice Weavers from the DCMS Youth Policy Team.
Cabinet Office Innovator Award winners 2019: Policy Lab (Nina Cutler and Sanjan Sabherwal) working with DCMS Youth Policy Team (Alice Weavers) and presented by Carol Bernard.

Policy Lab was set up nearly 6 years ago to make space in government for trying new approaches to policy making. It has allowed policy teams to get familiar using tools and techniques borrowed from the worlds of anthropology, design, data science and even art. We also encourage teams to embrace expertise from people beyond Whitehall, particularly drawing on the lived experiences of citizens. And in this case those experts, and citizens, were young people.

Designing for participation

The project's success stemmed from its participatory approach. Policy Lab enabled a ‘Youth Steering Group’ to develop and test their own digital solutions by taking them through an innovation process. This diverse group of 14-24 year olds reviewed a map of the existing government consultation process that we had developed for our parallel work on consultations work with the Department for Transport. We invited them to consider the needs of both young people and policymakers by using role play to build empathy for the different actors across government departments. And it turns out this can be a useful tool for policymakers too!

This is an photo of members of the Youth Steering Group reviewing a map of the government consultation process.
The Youth Steering Group reviewing the government consultation process.

Working in this way, the group realised they could leverage their own social media networks to promote live consultations and gather data using Instagram’s in-built polling feature - all for free! They could also offer a service to policy teams providing feedback data and measuring impact using data. 

With compelling evidence from user testing prototypes with young people and policymakers, the Youth Steering Group successfully pitched their ideas to two consecutive ministers in DCMS. They have now secured funding for the pilot to move into Phase 2 and the service is due to go live in the coming months. Follow us on twitter to hear updates from the project.

This is an image of a tweet showing the Youth Steering Group meeting with previous Civil Society Minister Mims Davis.
Members of the Youth Steering Group meeting with previous Civil Society Minister Mims Davis.

What’s your next project?

At Policy Lab each project is an opportunity to stretch our imagination on what putting people at the heart of policy making means for innovation. This project in particular highlighted the importance of gaining legitimacy for taking a more open, participative approach to policy making. 

If you’re working in a policy team with an ambition to take a participative approach on your projects in 2020, we’d love to hear from you!

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