On prototyping and putting something out there… notes from the UK Policy Lab

MargaretDesign Tools, Legal Product Design, Prototyping for PolicyLeave a Comment

Vasant Chari, writing on the UK Policy Lab blog, documents how prototyping is being used in the government: On prototyping and putting something out there… – Policy Lab

I believe we should embrace a ‘prototyping mindset’ whenever we are making policy.  I’d like to leave you with three reasons:

First, prototyping is an acknowledgment that even after doing the research and building a great view of what the citizen wants, you are still a long way off a perfect policy. It is a way of safely imagining what a service might look like, welcoming comments with “yes, great point”, rather than “I didn’t explain that clearly enough”.

Second, prototypes can be a more understandable and compelling way to explain how something might work. If you are thinking about creating a voucher scheme, make it tangible by mocking up a voucher and asking people if they would use it.  This might produce richer insights than sending someone a two page note on what you are trying to achieve.

Third, and most critically, prototyping can be a tool to promote the thought diversity which I believe is so necessary in government. Like many conscientious policy makers, I’ve often been afraid of speaking an opinion for fear of being ‘shut down’ when someone finds an inevitable small flaw in an idea. Showing someone a prototype which demonstrates the idea can be a safe way of encouraging constructive criticism: saying “this won’t be perfect, but here is what it might look like – are we going in the right direction?”.

You can find out more about prototyping in the Open Policy Making Toolkit or check out Nesta’s handy guide here.  Tip of the day: create your prototype by thinking about what you want to learn, asking those around who they think we should ask.  They might even be able to find you people to do more prototyping with.

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