What people told us — government policy and service design event

At the Service Design in Government 2017 event a few of us talked about organising an event focused on how we make UK government services better by joining up policymaking and service design. I was particularly inspired by James Reeve’s talk that day, which he has now followed up with a blogpost.

I created a googledoc to get people’s views on what they’d want from an event like this. This post summarises those views and lets you know how you can get involved in what happens next.

The community would like a full-day event in June, largely unconference-style but with a bit of guidance and help for the uninitiated. So no keynote, no set talks — but maybe with a few experts called on to pitch particular sessions or case studies that people would like to know about.

For sessions, people had lots of ideas, and there were some definite common themes:

  • Introductions to what policy and service design are, where the boundaries are and how they are similar/different
  • How we can learn from people who have successfully brought these and other professions together to make services better
  • How we can improve some of the more traditional parts of policy making, such as consultations and white papers
  • Using service design to deliver better in hard or dependency-heavy environments, such as complex policy areas or where government doesn’t have direct control over service delivery
  • Exploring and defining the benefits of bringing these different communities together, including practical ways we can make that happen
  • How we influence existing professional communities (the policy profession, digital communities and heads of profession) to make true multidisciplinary delivery more than an experiment
  • What a true multidisciplinary team means, who’s involved and how we build them, including learning and development

People are also really keen to hear case studies that have gone well and not so well, and we’ll be contacting people we know who have done this before and bear the scar tissue, to share their experiences.

I’m very keen for the event to be inclusive of everyone involved in making services better, from service design people and policy makers to operational staff, lawyers, commercial professionals and others (and local government and #ofthegovernment people too, of course.) The big danger is that we preach to the converted, so it’s vital that people working in all of these teams come along. We’re considering having a ‘bring your policy/ops buddy’ rule, where everyone who’s coming from the service design community brings someone from their department/agency who might be less knowledgeable or confident. We’d like it to spread some positive ripples through government departments and agencies.

For that reason, we’re also thinking about the name of the event. We don’t want it to be ‘about’ policy or service design as two things, but about improving the way government builds and delivers services in general. We’re thinking of calling it something simple like ‘Making better government services’, so we don’t alienate any particular group of people.

Want to get involved?

Lots of people have, wonderfully, already volunteered their time. To get the ball rolling, I’m going to host a meetup so those who want to help can talk face to face. If you’re one of them, or want to be, here’s a poll you can fill in to show your availability for an hour over the next two weeks: https://doodle.com/poll/vpgau3d8d8s95xwk

If you’re working on government services, you could share this blogpost within your department, agency or team and help drum up interest.

If you’ve got an interesting experience or case study, let me know on Twitter @kitterati or by commenting on this blogpost. Ditto if you’ve got questions.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has commented on this or offered help so far, including but not by any means limited to Edward Saperia, Rob Banathy, Kara Kane, Peter O’Sullivan, Joanne Gillies, Persis Howe, @stamanfar, Sophies Boyd and Dennis, Tom Loosemore, David Durant and David Buck. You’re all great.