What follows is a slightly edited version of the notes I made during the Policy Making in the Future session. Robin Grant of WeAreSocial requested that I send them over to him, so thought I may as well pop them here. The emphasis here is getting up what took place in a raw data form. Hence they’re a bit rough and ready, but I hope useful.

Session: Policy making in the Future
Chair: Mick Fealty, Slugger O’Toole.com
Panelists: Steph Grey (Department of Business, Innovation & Skills), David Price (Debate Graph), Deborah Szebeko (ThinkPublic).

Steph Gray
I’m from the communications team at BIS, I’m not a policy official, not represting BIS today, these are just some thoughts really:

How policy is made:

  • Identification: minister wants problem solved
  • Analysis
  • Consultation

But, the internet changes things. With the internet we’re in a poistion to get lots of people involved. Henace three big questions:

  • where do the clever ideas come from?
  • who chooses the solutions?
  • how do we make change happen?

We’re (the government) beginning to see and do enlightened policy discussion online

  • Commentable documents
  • Video (see Building Britain’s Future) – a multimedia policy document
  • Blogs (eg. Defra)


  • The numbers involved are still tiny
  • People are still cynical abot online gimmicks
  • Not all contributions equally helpful
  • Gov isn’t geared up for mass dialogue
  • The incentives on bothe sides are both wrong

Three Goals for future

  • A wider range of contributors
  • Better ideas
  • Conversation which goes somewhere

Policy deliberation in the future?

Different folks for different strokes
Take key facts and make into quizes
Create widgets for bloggers like Tom Watson

Try and make the debate more accessible:
Examples: debate graph, Open Gov initiative (US), Simply Understand

David Price
Debate Graph – collaborative thinking

“There are always more smart people outside gov than inside”
But how do you make sense of it?
Problems of repeatition

We’re (debate graph) focussing on the underlying ideas
Represent the idea just once (one submission), which people can then refine, rate, vote for

We break down the ideas into small chunks eg. building blocks of: Question, suggesiont, reason
This can include as much depth as you need and diff media – eg. video
Enables externalisation of communities thoughts

Challenge: make it simple and easy and means for distribution (see Independent climate change pages)

The people/organisations using Debate Graph:

  • Downing Street
  • RSA
  • Independent (newspaper)
  • European Commission

Deborah Szebeko
Think Public (social innovation and design)

A lot of information out there is hard to understand, how do you de-jargon? Design is one way forward


  • Using language
  • Choice – drawing, using video
  • Format eg. Dragon’s Den (Pitch your project)

“What does success look like?” (Ross Fergusson)

Steph – For me success is:

  • Have you got a wider range of people involved
  • Are we getting better ideas through
  • Does the conversation continue

Deborah – It’s about how do you build sustainability

David – drawing in ideas that you wouldn’t have gathered before, process continues through the policy implementation – iterative, experiemental development


  1. Thanks for sharing these notes.

    I thought the session was really interesting.

    The thing that strikes me is that much is being done about engaging the public and giving people the opportunity to assert their views.

    But what is being done to get policy makers and people in government to pay attention, and take seriously, these new methods of engagement?

    To be successful I think the engagement needs to be mutual.

    Something which pressed a button for me was when Deborah from Think Public said that she know lots of people that have brilliant ideas that could be really useful for public services but they can’t get the ideas heard because they don’t know how to communicate about them in the right way. The ‘right’ way of communicating seems to be excluding people.

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