BEDA Connects to EU Policy Lab

17 October 2016
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BEDA Connects to EU Policy LabWe report on the inaugural ‘Lab Connections’ conference hosted by the European Commission this October

Policy Labs are multidisciplinary teams developing public services and policies using innovation methods to engage citizens in the development process. There over a hundred Policy Labs worldwide, and around 65 in Europe.

These Policy Labs use a range of innovation methods including behavioural insights, systems modelling, ethnography, digital, data science, co-creation and of course, design. On 17-18 October, the European Commission hosted its inaugural 'Lab Connections' conference bringing together Lab experts, policy-makers, designers and researchers. The EU Policy Lab team has created a map of the Policy Labs around Europe, which includes a number of BEDA member initiatives.

"The world is changing very rapidly and institutions have a hard time coping. To cope, we must work on decision-making procedures, citizen participation, digitalisation, design and be agile in our thinking. In a resource constrained environment we have to focus on creativity and innovation."

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commission Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources

"We have to open up decision-making procedures to get innovative ideas into policy. The birth of Policy Labs at national, regional and local levels is a valuable part of this process. The EU Policy Lab has now been operating for a year and a half. Creating a network of policy labs is a revolution in the public sector reform agenda. Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport."

The event kicked off with a series of high profile speakers presented their reflections on policy reform, innovation in government and the role of design in Policy Labs. The Portuguese Minister of Administration Modernisation, Maria Manuel Leitao Marques, showed how five different identification cards had been combined into one ID card, which everyone had believed was impossible. The OECD's Head of the Public Sector Reform Division, Edwin Lau, presented cases of design thinking and big data in government from around the world. For example, the Mexican Government established a game over one month in which citizens travelled the city bus routes, using their mobile phone data to create an accurate mapping of the transport system and the most travelled routes. In a roundtable panel a series of lessons both 'dos' and don'ts' were presented.

"We use a four-stage design process - Explore, Experiment, Experience, Expand. Our projects work well when we go straight into prototyping. To show impact, we need to start testing early. Policy is not static."

Cat Drew, Senior Policy Advisor, UK Policy Lab

"Let's forget the MacDonald vision for Labs. They are all different depending on the local culture. There is no blueprint."

Stephane Vincent, Director, 27e Region, France

"Most Labs focus on re-framing the challenge at the front end. Labs tend to focus less on the implementation and embedding the methods in the wider government. There are benefits to the quick wins but the more strategic wins are through longer-term implementation and systems change."

Jesper Christiansen, Senior Programme Manager, Nesta, UK

The main focus of the conference was on exploring nine challenges set by different Directorate-Generals across the Commission. The delegates self-organised into groups depending on their area of interest. The challenges ranged from youth unemployment to migration and from supporting start-ups to a citizen charter for digital public services. Representing BEDA, board member Dr Anna Whicher shared the insights generated from the BEDA General Assembly 2016. Using design processes we unpacked the challenge of addressing public perception on migration. We conducted a stakeholder mapping of the 'unusual suspects', trying to identify actors perhaps more on the periphery of the issue but which potentially have significant leverage points, such as sports teams, music groups, food initiatives and language schools. We honed in on the notion of 'popping social bubbles', those ideas that have become entrenched and reinforced by social constructs. We created a roadmap to gather insight with refugees (who we termed 'newcomers') and to co-create pilot projects based on these various stakeholder groups. In the coming months DGs will be exploring the opportunities to turn the concepts generated at the event into action.

More information about Lab Connections: blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/lab-connections/

Contact BEDA  Koloniënstraat 56, 1000 Brussels (Belgium) t. (+32) 2 217 39 77  f. (+32) 2 217 99 72
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