Cutting through complexity using collective intelligence

Blog by the UK Policy Lab: “In November 2021 we established a Collective Intelligence Lab (CILab), with the aim of improving policy outcomes by tapping into collective intelligence (CI). We define CI as the diversity of thought and experience that is distributed across groups of people, from public servants and domain experts to members of the public. We have been experimenting with a digital tool,, to capture diverse perspectives and new ideas on key government priority areas. To date we have run eight debates on issues as diverse as Civil Service modernisation, fisheries management and national security. Across these debates over 2400 civil servants, subject matter experts and members of the public have participated…

From our experience using CILab on live policy issues, we have identified a series of policy use cases that echo findings from the government of Taiwan and organisations such as Nesta. These use cases include: 1) stress-testing existing policies and current thinking, 2) drawing out consensus and divergence on complex, contentious issues, and 3) identifying novel policy ideas

1) Stress-testing existing policy and current thinking

CI could be used to gauge expert and public sentiment towards existing policy ideas by asking participants to discuss existing policies and current thinking on This is well suited to testing public and expert opinions on current policy proposals, especially where their success depends on securing buy-in and action from stakeholders. It can also help collate views and identify barriers to effective implementation of existing policy.

From the initial set of eight CILab policy debates, we have learnt that it is sometimes useful to design a ‘crossover point’ into the process. This is where part way through a debate, statements submitted by policymakers, subject matter experts and members of the public can be shown to each other, in a bid to break down groupthink across those groups. We used this approach in a debate on a topic relating to UK foreign policy, and think it could help test how existing policies on complex areas such as climate change or social care are perceived within and outside government…(More)”