Getting Started with Policy Co-design

We have recently completed the Innovation for Culture project alongside British Council Mexico and Cultura Jalisco with the aim of exploring future policy options and opportunities for the state of Jalisco using a co-design approach. We used various forms of participation along the way, including stakeholder and policy mapping, expert interviews, multiple activities with a 25 person citizen advisory group, and a community survey. The project lasted 6 months and resulted in a set of policy recommendations and a Playbook summarising our approach and key learnings. 

Pages from the Policy Co-Design Playbook (bilingual in Spanish and English)

When we started the project, we were overwhelmed by all of the different approaches out there in terms of opening up the policymaking process at its early, strategic stages. In the UK and Australia, organisations like Nesta, Policy Lab, Design Council, Involve and Beyond Sticky Notes have compiled excellent toolkits, case studies and guidance for policy teams, civil servants and related stakeholders seeking to make policymaking more participatory and community-centred. There is so much good stuff already; we knew we didn’t need to design anything new. The challenge came in selecting and adapting existing tools and approaches based on our objectives, budget and timeline. 

Our work began with compiling a rough deck of tools, loosely mapped across stages of an idealised participatory design process. We pulled tools and methods from a range of leading organisations working in the fields of participatory, community-based innovation and design. The tools in this deck acted as a menu of sorts, that we could peruse and select from while curating our own steps and activities. This was no easy task however. Just as it is difficult to order from a menu of wonderful dishes when one is hungry, our selection was plagued with uncertainty and indecision at times. 

Page from the Policy Co-Design Playbook (bilingual in Spanish and English)

Time, budget and logistical constraints due to COVID-19 forced us to make some tough choices quickly. And with close conversation with the project team and trust from our stakeholders, we moved swiftly to adapting our chosen tools and methods to our own circumstances. From a longlist of over 50 tools, we used and adapted a bespoke collection of 18 for this particular project. We did not just benefit from tools however; we also found numerous tips, models and frameworks relating to the mindsets, skills, people and processes to consider when designing and running a co-design process that all stakeholders benefited from. 

Getting Started with Policy Co-design is a “tool anthology” of sorts. With case-study snippets from our own experience of selecting and adapting tools and methods, it is also a reflection and outlet for our learnings from putting theory to practice across the Innovation for Culture programme. 

Download a PDF of the Playbook (bilingual in Spanish and English).
Innovation for Culture website