Why do we have a Policy Lab?
Policy making is at the core of work of Whitehall and it is crucial that the delivery of these policies meets the demands of the fast-paced and increasingly digital world. It needs policy making that is about developing and delivering information that is better designed for both the government and users.
HMRC’s Policy Lab, using Cabinet Office’s words, is to do just that to ‘develop policy in a more open, data-driven, digital and user centred way’. If we want HMRC’s policies to work we need to make sure users are at the heart of everything we do. So we help policy teams explore how taxes, reliefs and duties might work and to develop approaches to make it easier for customers to understand the ‘ask’ of these policies and how they can comply with them.
HMRC set up their Policy Lab team in February 2018 with a vision of what we would do:
- have a user-focused approach ensuring that policy is feasible, meets its intent and delivers value for money
- put people at the centre of policy-making, to bring the best understanding of how policies might impact on people and government
- help policy makers shape policies making it easier for people to meet their obligations and to maximise government efficiency
- bridge the gap between government and citizens using creative tools and collaborative techniques to enhance conventional HMRC policy design
Our set up
In HMRC we have a core team of product managers, service designers and user researchers. Each policy project has at least one person from those professions, and we work collaboratively with our policy teams to take forward their policy challenges.
Collaboration is key to the work we do, everything is in partnership with our policy team. That means we prioritise the work we do together, they attend user research sessions and actively participate in design workshops. We hope it’s an enlightening, and fun experience – at least that's what feedback so far is telling us!
What have we been working on?
This is an interesting question as, more often than not, we have to tell people we can’t say – it can be a bit ‘secret squirrel’. Most of last year was spent on sensitive budget measures which meant we had to keep quiet about it. We got really good at working in sensitive environments from innovative approaches with user research to general day to day team working. It’s crucial that our policy teams trust us to act with discretion.
Where is the next year taking us and can you help?
Our Policy Lab is embryonic so we want to share with and learn from other Policy Labs, not least how other Policy Labs are measuring the success of their work. So if anyone working in the same field has some answers or ideas to share I’d love to hear them.
Faye Churchill, Head of HMRC Policy Lab
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