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Rise of the policy designer lessons from the UK and Latvia.pdf (1.47 MB)

Rise of the policy designer—lessons from the UK and Latvia

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-11-21, 16:38 authored by Anna Whicher, Piotr Świątek

 “Perhaps Policy Designer really should be a new job title” mused Bason, the former Director of the Danish Government’s policy lab back in 2014. In 2017, Policy Lab in the UK Cabinet Office advertised the first UK job for a “Policy Designer” requesting skills, such as visualizing complex data, creating and testing prototypes in policy delivery environments, and facilitating workshops with people of all backgrounds. Since then, many UK central government departments have followed suit and by 2022, around 50 Policy Designers work in various government departments. According to Nesta, there are more than 200 government labs around the world and ∼60 in Europe. Around ten of these are concentrated in UK central government and the first UK policy labs opened their doors in 2014 in the Cabinet Office and the Northern Ireland Department of Finance. However, the design for policy agenda is also on the rise in Eastern Europe; and Latvia has been identified as an example of good practice by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2018, the Latvian Innovation Laboratory was opened in the State Chancellery and now in 2022, it embarks on its third distinct phase of operation. This article charts the rise of government labs in the UK and Latvia to explore different experiences and identify good practices in building capability for policy design across Europe. The purpose of this research is not to make a comparison between the two countries, as they are on very different stages of their journeys, but to identify strengths and weaknesses in the supply and demand for policy design to drawn out lesson learned for other European countries. What has been the role of policy labs in the rise of the policy designer in the UK and Latvia? To what extent is there a professional community of policy designers in either country? Bobrow outlines seven preconditions for a professional community: self-identification as a policy designer, a professional association, journals, standards for certification, broader attribution of special expertise, a core foundation of knowledge, and capacity building programmes. This article explores the emergence of policy labs and policy designers in the UK and Latvia, the attributes, skillset, challenges, opportunities, and whether according to Bobrow’s criteria policy design is a professional community. 


Published in

Policy Design and Practice


Taylor & Francis


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Whicher, P.A. and Swiatek, P.P. (2022) 'Rise of the policy designer—lessons from the UK and Latvia', Policy Design and Practice, pp.1-17. doi:10.1080/25741292.2022.2141488

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Anna Whicher

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