On February 10, 2019 we are shutting down Madison.
If you have used Madison to publish public policy documents and would like to download an archive of your document’s activity, you can do so through the end of Sunday, February 10th (EST). How-to instructions are included at the end of this post.
After February 10th, we will turn Madison into a static website. Published documents, discussions and debates will be permanently archived as they exist today. Should you wish to continue using Madison, you can stand up your own version of Madison. …
In the final section of our findings, we share insights into the mental models and institutional factors limiting innovation, and we offer ideas for overcoming inertia around change.
1 Offices are underwhelmed and often frustrated by the tools available to them, but they often lack time, resources, and appetite to experiment with new tools or invest in large-scale process innovation.
2 For most offices, the most significant limitations are human hours and financial resources.
3 Teams feel constrained by the rules and entities that regulate technology use, as well as their own limited experience buying and using modern tools. In…
After the Presidential election of 2016, our country experienced a rising tide of citizen engagement. New apps and tools were invented seemingly overnight to reduce friction in contacting Members of Congress, and advocacy organizations new and old activated hundreds of thousands of Americans to speak up. Quite suddenly, Congress faced reportedly the largest uptick in constituent input in recent memory.
Amidst this flurry of civic engagement, stories emerged of overflowing voicemail boxes, woefully understaffed congressional offices, and bitter, disgruntled constituents.
Meanwhile, on the other side of D.C., organizations such as 18F and the U.S. Digital Service have been busy sharing…
“The more effort a constituent puts into their correspondence with us, the higher the likelihood the Member will respond themselves.”
“We give more attention and weight to those who take many steps towards change.”
“I have a folder on my desk of unique, moving, personal stories for the Member to review and respond to by hand.”
“I hold onto [personal letters] so that our boss can call them back or write a handwritten letter.”
“In our district, student and kid stories carry a lot of weight.”
“Especially thoughtful letters get handwritten responses from someone on the team. …
Human-centered design leans heavily on the very kind of people and systems-focused research we’ve just shared with you. But this is just the start. Capturing a rich understanding of constituent engagement operations is but one early step to reimagining how our democracy can evolve into the 21st century. We now need to experiment, design new ideas, and gather feedback iteratively to identify the biggest opportunities for impact.
“We’re working the way we do because it’s the way we’ve always done it. Until there’s a solid alternative, it will continue.”
“I know there are tools out there I’d like to explore. I don’t have the time to really invest in figuring out if or how we could use them.”
“We like to experiment and test different tools, but we are rare — most teams won’t invest the time in trying things out.”
“We ultimately didn’t procure this one tool we were considering for a while because we didn’t have an internal lead to handle the transition. …
Our research followed a human-centered design methodology, an approach to product and service innovation that combines two elements: 1) an understanding of the human experience of a system — the capacities, behaviors, drivers, and needs — and 2) the development of technical solutions, which we design and test with real people. This approach allowed us to qualitatively understand the current state of correspondence systems and identify opportunities for improvement.
Many pain points we observed staff experiencing with their core technology — their CRMs — indicated that these tools, while showing signs of improvement, were not designed to best support the human needs of a staffer quickly maneuvering in and around these systems. Features such as language detection, batching, and document review proved particularly troublesome and could benefit from UX evaluation and redesign.
Correspondence teams are users of both the workflow and technical systems that make engagement possible, and constituents are users of the engagement itself. In order to envision products, tools, and services that support and improve existing processes, we must first have a robust understanding of the needs and behaviors of the system’s users.
To help create and improve tools used by staff, we’ve identified nuances of the role each staff member plays in the process of engaging with constituents, and what they need to successfully do their work.
These qualitative insights about the people who make up the system are…
Serving those who serve the people in America’s legislatures, from Congress to your city council.