Inspired by Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has established a User Centred Policy Design (UCPD) team that is now 20-strong. It is one of a number of central government teams that is applying a variety of design techniques to policy development including the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC, among others. Design approaches in UK government have been pioneered by the Government Digital Service (GDS) but now design is moving beyond digital and into policy teams. The MoJ Showcase was an opportunity to share experiences across government on the theme of ‘Designing for People in Crisis’ and I was asked to share my emerging work on the crisis in the care system.
By 2039, one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 and over. This is a population timebomb where there will be more people requiring care packages and less people of working age. Furthermore, people are giving up employment to care for family members. However, family carers are reporting suffering from mental (72%) and physical ill health (61%) as a result of caring. Data and statistics will always be important in policy processes but data cannot tell you what it’s like to be a person in the care system or a family carer caring 50+ hours a week. What design can offer the policy process is empathy and inclusiveness.
The Northern Ireland Department of Health has recognised co-design as a process for engaging more effectively with the public on the reform of adult social care. Following a design for policy model that is being iteratively tested through this live project, I have developed a series of personas, stories and user journey maps representing a cross-section of people within the care system in Northern Ireland. In this context, the purpose of the design process is to foster empathy in the policy process and to re-think approaches to public engagement in decision-making. This is an on-going project and the first phase of work will be made public soon.
The MoJ Showcase panel discussions revolved around how to capture the impact of design on the policy process, how to re-design entrenched policy structures, how to meaningfully engage with the public in consultations and whether UCD in government is a fad.
What I learnt from the Showcase:
Design (and specialist design terms!) is entering the lexicon and practice of policy-making and tackling some high profile and complex issues.
In scrum teams, design and user research are separate (but complementary) functions within government.
Design is being adopted as a tool to foster empathy, compassion and respect within the policy process.
There is a desire to collaborate to exchange knowledge and good practices on design tools, methods and case studies.
There is appetite to understand what new technologies in conjunction with design could deliver in terms of more effective public engagement.
Design needs to deliver outputs that are recognised by traditional policy structures such as ministerial submissions, briefings, stakeholder engagement and public consultation.