Visual Camp – or developing "Policy in Pics"

Earlier this week I spent an evening in the Treasury, Whitehall, talking not about the economy but about how visuals and other creative approaches may be used to develop and communicate policy.

Noel Hatch, who facilitate the event, explains here how it developed from a “Policy in Pics”  idea from Toby Blume, proposed in the Dotgovlabs Innovation Hub (registration required). The event signup here provides more background, and Phil Green has created an Our Society group.

Here’s the intro content:

What do you mean by visuals?

Visuals are very powerful at capturing people’s imagination and getting them to reflect on what particular issues mean to them. Frominfographics that make sense of data to animations that help learn new tools, from modelling that helps design business cases to illustrationsthat help map a new policy, from animations (even in 3D) that reflect on an issue to photos that help map community resources. See an example below kindly created by Lauren Currie (taken from here).

What’s the problem?

These examples above could provide so many opportunities for public services and civil society to better communicate policies and issues to the people they serve. But often we rely on powerpoint or leaflets because that’s all we know and we write in a way that people don’t always understand!

What’s the opportunity?

So what if we could give people who are very good at telling stories and communicating through visuals an understanding of how they could better work with public services & civil society and give policy makers new perspectives on how they present their policies and issues they cover and make them more engaging to the public.

What’s the story?

On the DotGovLabs Innovation Hub community (see more here), a few of us – policy wonks, geeks, social entrepreneurs, civil society organisers – thought that a way of trying to achieve the above, we could start by getting both those groups of people together to test different ways of communicating policy and the issues these cover (i.e. digital exclusion, community rights).

How will it work?

In advance of the event, we want you to tell us and vote which policy issues/scenarios you want people to create visuals for. Go here where you can either vote on those we’ve put forward or suggest your own! The top four will be the challenges we work on the day itself.

Examples of challenges that people might want to create visuals for could include “how community groups could help provide public services” to “how to tackle youth unemployment” to “what the government ICT strategy means”.

On the day itself, you will able to get into small groups to brainstorm ideas and develop visuals on these challenges.

End of quote …

And that’s pretty much how it went, as you can see from the videos I shot. These include an intro from Noel, and then reports from the various groups. At the end of the playlist – and below – I’ve also included a short interview I did with Nick Payne, who gave a very simple and practical example of how we can have more purposeful conversations if we bring in some visual recording. The process of noting and drawing what we are talking about can quite literally make sure that we are on the same page.

It was a great evening, thanks to the Treasury as hosts, Noel, Sandy Bakowski of DotGovLabs, and Mark O’Neill who leads the Government Skunkworks team. As such, Mark is Chief Skunk. Unfortunately Mark had to leave early, so we never got that visualisation. Policy in Sniffs next time?

You can contact dotgovlabs here DGL.HUB@DIRECTGOV.GSI.GOV.UK and on Twitter . The Twitter feed from #visualcamp is here.

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