Can policymakers be trusted with our wellbeing?

Mentally Friendly has been partnering with government and large organisations to design more effective policies, services, products and teams for over 14 years. We are passionate about ensuring that our work contributes to a more inclusive and equitable society. This is why we are hosting an event on Tuesday 24 July 2018 (register here), bringing together policymakers, designers and leading thinkers and public commentators, to discuss whether current approaches to public policy are delivering the best outcomes for our citizens and communities.

Developing policy today is too often a waterfall process

The world is changing — citizens are demanding more from government programs and services, trust in large institutions is falling, data is more available than ever, and innovation and design thinking are now pretty well understood and applied across government. Yet we continue to see organisations tackle complex policy problems through waterfall-like approaches to problem solving which rely on correct framing of the problem early-on, and then arrive at policy recommendations through slow, linear and rigid processes. All too often, these processes are plagued by “solutions looking for a problem”, tokenistic consultation with those that are impacted by the policy, and a disconnect between what a user or citizen needs and the chosen policy response. Evaluation then only occurs at the end of the implementation process, if at all.

Better public policy is the product of research, evidence and data, and the involvement of impacted citizens and communities

While it is by no means a silver bullet or default response to every policy problem, Mentally Friendly believes that effective design can help government be more responsive to the changing landscape it now faces. A design process aims to build empathy with users and increases certainty over time which results in policy that does what is best for citizens, communities and society. When the pre-conditions are right, policy design involves co-design with communities and citizens from the outset, incorporates existing research, evidence and ‘best practice’, creates a tighter feedback loop between policy formulation and implementation, makes policy real through prototyping, and equips decision makers with constant feedback and learning from primary sources of evidence to make more confident and tested decisions to scale effective responses to those most in need.

Certainty increases as you build, test, evaluate, iterate and scale

But we don’t pretend to have all the answers. We want to learn from others applying design methods across government, exchange ideas with policymakers, and learn from public commentators calling for different approaches to public policy. We want to hear from YOU and help understand how we can ensure that policy makers can be trusted with the wellbeing of citizens, and we are all contributing to a more inclusive and effective democracy.

If this is of interest to you, or you think you can add to the conversation, please join us and some great panellists on Tuesday 24 July at 5:30pm. We are delighted to announce that the panel-style discussion will take place in the Senate Chambers in Old Parliament House. We couldn’t think of a better venue to debate public policy — so please join us.

Take your seat in the Senate Chambers along with us!

When: 5:15pm for a 5:30pm start, Tuesday 24 July 2018

Where: Senate Chamber, Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra, ACT 2600

Cost: Free! — Book here

Who for: This event is for anyone interested in how design changes the way we interact with each other, its effects on our culture as a whole, and are open to challenging the current approach and frame of reference that shapes policy making today.


  • Jo Wood, Coordinator-General for Family Safety, ACT Government.
  • Nicholas Gruen, CEO Lateral Economics.
  • Mark Kinsela, General Manager, Australian Digital Health Agency (and former adviser to the Commonwealth Minister for Health).
  • Anthony McGinness, Policy Design Director, Mentally Friendly.

Reserve your spot: