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Reboot Britain notes: Policy making in the future

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’
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

What should the government be doing about the internet?

Tom Steinberg, the director of mySociety, has posted an excellent set of priorities for all western governments of any persuasion regarding their approach to the internet.

Tom’s to-do list is very much in stark contrast to the comments made about the web by Andy Burnham, the Culture, Media and Sport secretary, in an interview given to the Daily Telegraph just after Christmas.

Burnham put forward the idea for rating websites, much like films and video games, and duly had techies across the land up in arms – most of them concerned with the minister’s lack of understanding of how the internet technically works. MP Tom Watson, much vaunted as one of the few people in parliament who not only ‘gets’ the web but actively participates in it, gave the opportunity to those concerned to have their voice heard by offering to take their comments to Andy Burham and Lord Carter personally using his blog.

This incident highlights a few of the points Tom makes:

Continue reading → What should the government be doing about the internet?