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Using design in policy making


Dr Lucy Kimbell from the University of Brighton undertook the year-long fellowship between September 2014 and August 2015 within Policy Lab, a small team which is part of the Cabinet Office, based in the Treasury building in Whitehall. This resulted in a number of outcomes that look at the role and impact of design in policy making. The Fellowship aimed to create a better understanding of the role of design in service innovation and the innovation ecosystem, the economic impact of design and the value of design contributions to business and public service delivery. The research has supported Policy Lab’s aim of experimenting with new and innovative ways of making policy in practical projects with policy officials in government departments including the Department of Work and Pensions, Department of Health, Home Office and Ministry of Justice.

Policy Exploration Framework designed by Lucy Kimbell. Credit: Lucy Kimbell

The key outputs include a conceptual model developed through the fellowship informed by academic research. The model helps answer the question “What is the difference that a design approach makes to policy making?” This is being used by civil servants to evaluate Policy Lab’s impact and is directly shaping its next phase of development. Kimbell has also had a role in building an understanding of the Policy Lab and the role of design in policy making within Whitehall by organising an event attended by 60 people on ethnography in policy making and through writing three detailed posts on the public Cabinet Office Open Policy Blog.* She has also been involved in advising the Scottish Government on setting up a lab network.

As noted by a Senior Policy Adviser within the Cabinet Office’s Government Innovation Group: “Dr Kimbell’s sharing of her skills, knowledge and tools has significantly increased the capacity of the Policy Lab to deliver a quality service to our departmental colleagues. No training we could have accessed would have had such a dramatic upskilling as the time she spent with us. We are now sharing these skills with colleagues across the civil service. The report Dr Kimbell produced is already sparking new conversations and connections between us and others in the public innovation space, both nationally and internationally. It is causing not just us, but the wider UK civil service policy profession, to think more deeply how these approaches should be used.”

* Cabinet Office Open Policy Blog

This case study was featured within the AHRC 2014/15 impact report.

Gateway to Research Project Links: Co-designing an evaluation framework for design in the context of policy (Sep 14 - Oct 15)