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Policy design’s big year

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: PublicPolicyDesign

A photo of civil servants designing policy and services.

It’s the end of our year and time for our school report!

Our plan for 2022-23 was to ‘build gravity’. We wanted to embed ourselves within the machinery of government, and both connect policy design people all across UK Government and build our intellectual clout. We have undeniably achieved that.

Over the past 10 years since Policy Lab was established, the policy design model has spread across government and most large departments of state now have their own sector-specific labs. But the extent of policy design’s reach was largely unknown, even to practitioners in the community. With just a small investment from Policy Profession we have uncovered an iceberg of interest in policy design, we have rapidly grown to hundreds of members in 75 public sector organisations and developed a university-based network with hundreds of members from academia, public practice and private practice.

We now need to capitalise on this astonishing progress. In 2023-24, Policy Profession will continue their sponsorship of our work as a community of expert practitioners and will support us to develop a formal career pathway for policy design.

If we had a theme for next year, it would be ‘make it unaffordable not to do design’. We are reprioritising our work to make a landmark ‘case for policy design’ and to seek significant leadership and investment.

Institute for Government’s view on our work

IfG’s 2023 Whitehall Monitor reports “It is important for the civil service to continue to experiment with different models for making policy, spreading and embedding those found to be effective. Examples include the use of multidisciplinary teams and ‘red teams’ to stress test proposals, and using deliberative methods to involve the public in policy design and decision making... These methods are sometimes used in government already… for example, Policy Lab [founder member of the policy design community]. Concrete plans are required for how these methods will be mainstreamed into regular departmental practices, and robustly upheld as indispensable elements of policy work. So to continue to improve the quality of its policy advice to ministers, the civil service should focus in 2023 on building on good practice highlighted by the likes of Policy Lab and the policy profession …High-level political and official advocacy will be essential if positive examples are to be built upon.”

HM Government’s investment in policy design

The 2022-23 financial year was the first time that the community has been sponsored by Policy Profession. The investment made by Policy Profession comprised: payment of salary for a head of community role, plus a small amount of back office support for social media marketing, minus about 0.2FTE return support for Policy Profession (like developing and leading Policy Professions CS Live conference events). All other activity was funded through voluntary contribution of community members alongside their existing work commitments.

What we delivered in 2022-23

In March 2022, the community agreed a strategy for the year. Its aim was to: embed design into government’s normal way of working; and create a thriving community for technical experts in policy design teams by giving them networks, patterns, infrastructure, and support.

The community launched a quarterly delivery board to oversee delivery. The board members are people who lead the community’s work, plus its strategic stakeholders in universities, local government and government professions.

This is what the community delivered over the year against its planned activity (in bold):


  • Publish regular posts on the blog - 22 posts published on the public policy design blog from practitioners, SCS leaders and academics. We published fortnightly, with breaks for election purdah. We agreed to share the blog with our universities network. We have remained Policy Profession’s most popular content and have a re-publishing deal with Apolitical to reach their 150,000 policymaking subscribers. Content is promoted on Twitter, LinkedIn and Slack.
  • Identify leverage points to embed design in the HMG system & protype interventions – by end of year we will have approached individuals to undertake 2 senior sponsorship roles for public design. The community has established a Design Leaders working group who are undertaking research to understand how best to create a peer-to-peer network for SCS leaders. The community worked with CDDO to update the GOV.UK Service Manual to include Understanding and meeting policy intent.
  • Make the case for policy design with an academic research network – we formally partnered and launched the AHRC-funded Design and Policy Network. 439 members have joined (as of January 2022) from academia and private and public practice. 3 well-attended events discussing policy design, each led by a design researcher, a political science researcher and a policy design practitioner.
  • Publicise our value proposition for policy design – published The value of public design, and promoted its ideas at Civil Service Live (ran all of Policy Profession’s conference sessions in 5 UK cities), Service Design in Government (3 different speaking slots at this international public design conference in Edinburgh), Design and Policy Network event in Manchester, community profile published on Apolitical, responded to Scottish Government’s inquiry into government decision-making.


  • Deliver regular community of practice sessions – 44 working group meetings held on Future Practice, Future Workforce, Design Leaders, Design Community, Design Education, and Future Tech.
  • Curate a slack channel for the community – channel in operating on Gov slack, blog posts shared on channel.
  • Maintain a GOV.UK community page – community page is published.
  • Maintain a community mailing list – we have automated the community joining process and mailing list and now publish using Mailchimp. We now send a monthly newsletter to all community members that includes update, blog posts, events and L&D. The community began to publicly advertise how new members can join about halfway through the year, and (as of January) the community now has members in 76 government organisation in central and local government and government agencies. Regular briefing of practitioner teams in government organisation on the community and benefits of joining.
  • Operate a community inbox and calendar – is live and heavily used.
  • Speak at external events like conferences, policy schools, CS Live – taught at: DWP Policy Group Development Programme, Cabinet Office Policy School, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, DIT Policy School, DIT apprenticeship school, HMG Fast Stream Conference, Office for Road and Rail Policy School, Nesta public lectures.
  • Organise socials for policy design people – we held our first post-lockdown quarterly social in October, and now have opened this up to members across the community, but currently only in London.
  • Host monthly meetups for people in policy design to network – 12 monthly meet-ups held.


  • Pilot the policy-to-delivery course for policymakers – the course content was completed and peer-reviewed by 10 leading design and political science professors from our universities network, and 15 practitioners. Department for Education will be first to run the course in March 2023. There’s strong interest from other large department of state too.
  • Prototype a design crit buddy scheme for policy design teams – not done or progressed.
  • Offer short off-the-shelf, interactive taster sessions for policymakers – not done or progressed.
  • Train practitioners in policy design based on roles and essential skills – not done or progressed.
  • Investigate viability of a policy design apprenticeship and fast stream – not done or progressed.


  • Set out policy design roles & skills for generalists and experts – a capabilities framework for design experts has been drafted.
  • Formally recognise policy designer role with DDAT, OpDel and PP – we had some early conversations with DDAT, but not progressed. Policy Profession have recognised policy design as one of the career pathways that all policy professionals can take in the future.


  • Establish citizen co-design value proposition, patterns and infrastructure – co-design principles developed with Defra’s Future Farming team. Developed a co-design training offer for government’s new regional hub offices and delivered in Wolverhampton. Presented co-design showcase at Civil Service Climate and Environment Conference.
  • Map and horizon scan future policy design tech – developed a plan and project brief for mapping policy tech against policymakers’ user needs for delivery in 2023-24.

Our plans for 2023-24

Our delivery board has been looking forward to next year and has agreed a plan of action. Our headline priority for 2023-24 is to make a landmark ‘case for policy design’ and to seek significant leadership and investment. We will then work with Policy Profession to establish a career pathway for policy design.


We are a multidisciplinary community of practice for experts on policy design in the UK’s central and local government organisations. Find out more about what we do and our value to government in our blog posts: The value of public design and Are you making a bid for design?


  • Citizens get more meaningful outcomes and better public services
  • Civil servants who make policy and services are more effective
  • Government gets more public value from its investments


  • Embed design into government’s normal way of working
  • Create a thriving community for technical experts in policy design teams by giving them networks, patterns, infrastructure, and skills.


We will publish our strategy and publish regular updates on progress. A policy design community leader will lead each workstream, and they will all meet quarterly as a delivery board to manage the work.


Our year will broadly split into 2 parts. In the first two quarters we will prioritise making the ‘case the policy design’. In the final two quarters we will turn to seeking more substantial investment from wider government and developing a career pathway for policy design.

Critical work on making the ‘case for policy design’ includes: advocacy and embedding design, and design leadership.

Work in last year’s strands on design training and future workforce will be joined-up in a new design education workstream, but this work will be sequenced for the second half of the year.

Work will carry on throughout the year on providing design community and events, plus future design practice (due to popular interest of community members).

Our workstreams for next year are:


  • Develop a ‘case for policy design’ that includes: academic literature review, Return On Investment, interviews with global design leaders, analysis of the 2022 Design Council’s public sector survey, academic paper on a new model for policy design, report to AHRC/UKRI on future research interests on policy, independent review of future public design invest needs
  • Support our university-based Design and Policy Network to establish a long-term funding base and operating model
  • Support our local government-based colleagues by partnering with initiatives like London Policy and Strategy Network.
  • Publish regular posts about policy design on the blog
  • Speak at external events like conferences, policy schools, CS Live


  • Appoint a national design champion and create network around them to brigade UK public design interests
  • Appoint sponsors from other professions (like Policy Profession) to advocate for policy design
  • Develop a peer-to-peer network for SCS design leaders


  • Deliver regular community of practice sessions in partnership with other design networks like London Policy and Strategy Network
  • Curate a slack channel for the community
  • Maintain a GOV.UK community page
  • Maintain a community mailing list
  • Send a monthly newsletter
  • Operate a community inbox and calendar
  • Organise socials for policy design people
  • Host monthly meetups for people in policy design to network


  • For all officials: embed the policy-to-delivery course into more public sector organisations
  • For all officials: develop a bank of short off-the-shelf training materials and presenter roster for policy design teams to train other officials in the organisation on the basics of policy design
  • For policy design experts: agree a final set of capabilities for policy design
  • For policy design experts: develop a career pathway for policy design that fits with Policy Profession
  • For policy design experts: identify training mechanism and develop content


  • Establish citizen co-design value proposition, patterns and infrastructure
  • Partner with the Design and Policy Network on a Green Transition Ecosystems bid
  • Map and horizon scan future policy design tech

It’s time for you to take action

As the policy design community matures into its teenage years, there are plenty of exciting opportunities for all policy designers whether in public practice, private practice or academia. If we are to continue to grow in a meaningful way and achieve our goal of making design core business for governments, then we need to work together. If you can help, then get in touch at

Join our community

We use this blog to talk about the work of the multidisciplinary policy design community. We share stories about our work, the thinking behind it and what policymaking might look like in the future. If you would like to read more, then please subscribe to this blog. If you work for the UK's government, then you can you join the policy design community. If you don't work for the UK government, then join our AHRC Design and Policy Network.

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  1. Comment by john mortimer posted on

    Good work and good progress!
    The only comment I would like to make is that I have realised a long time ago, that some of the problems that exists, that we are trying to fix, exist simply because government is too departmentalised.
    Whilst working in Housing, it became very clear to us that Policy should never be disconnected from the design and knowledge that exists where this is designed and delivered in our communities.
    Local and central government have to become closer together, and the result will automatically be that fundamental shifts occur.
    There is a danger in seeing Policy as only residing in Policy. And dont just talk to the academics! There is much out there that has already been learned in practice.

  2. Comment by Alex Hayes posted on

    Great summary of the last year in policy design. We've achieved a lot of progress and you've been frank about where we need to do more. Keep up the good work!


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