Open policy making in action: Empowering divorcing couples and separating families to create sustainable solutions

at Open Policy Making Blog (UK Cabinet): “Set up in April 2014, Policy Lab brings new tools and techniques, new insights and practical experimentation to policy-making. This second demonstrator project has over the past two months resulted in learning about how policy professionals can work in a more open, user-centred way to engage with others and generate novel solutions to policy issues.
The project, with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), is concerned with family mediation during divorce and separation….
The main findings from the Lab’s perspective are in three areas.
 Clarifying what user perspectives bring to policy-making.
The project gave us some insights into the potential value of ethnography in policy-making. It was centred around people’s whole experience of divorce or separation, not just their interactions with mediators or lawyers. The research explored what it was like for people now, and the creative activities in the workshop proposed what it could be like for people in the future.  Unexpected insights included that some people going through separation and divorce lacked confidence in their ability to make decisions about their futures.
Using person-centred techniques in the workshop made participants accountable to the users.  Their stories were read, interpreted and discussed at the start. Throughout the workshop, participants repeatedly raised questions about what a proposed new solution might be like for these personas. It was as if these participants were now accountable to these individuals.
Reconstituting the issue of family mediation.
Another result of this project was to shift from seeing policy-making as primarily as the province of the MoJ towards a collective activity in which many actors and different kinds of expertise needed to be involved. The project constituted policy-making as a complex configuration of socio-cultural, organizational and technological actors, processes, data and resources – more of a living system than a mechanical object with inputs, outputs and policy “levers”.
Starting and ending with people’s lives, not government-funded or delivered services, as the driver to innovate.  
Finally, this Lab project looked broadly at people’s lives, not just as users of mediation or court services…. (More)”