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Cross-government meetup on Good Discovery

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The topic for our cross government meetup in June was Good Discovery. We had a great turn out and 5 fantastic talks.

The National Audit Office hosted the event at their head office in Victoria. Many thanks to them.

Rediscovery for Performance Platform

Tingling Zhao from GDS told us about the (re)discovery work she led for the Performance Platform team. The aim of the rediscovery was to better understand user needs around publishing performance data for services.

Tingting started with training sessions, so everyone on the team saw the rediscovery as a positive step and knew how to get involved.

The team visited 55 organisations in 14 locations. They kept the discovery broad, and made sure the team could reach people they didn’t already know about.

This allowed the discovery to contradict one of the team’s main assumptions - that the performance platform was about providing information for individual services. Instead they learned that the performance platform needs to give an overview of services across government.

You can find out more about the results of the discovery on the Data at GDS blog.

Research like you’re wrong, for Capital Gains Tax

Michael Quek from HMRC told us about the discovery work he had done for Capital Gains Tax.

He reminded us that good discovery research is like going fishing. You don’t know exactly what or how much you’ll get.

To kick off the discovery, he worked with the team to quickly map out touch points, stakeholders, and existing sources of data. And then focussed on building relationships with the stakeholders they identified - the contact centre, Foreign Office, community organisations, and others. These relationships were invaluable in later stages.

To reach users, Michael first tried using embassy social media accounts. But this didn’t work well. He found that that approach only works if you already have a good relationship with someone who is trusted in the community.

Michael also warned of the danger of placing too much weight on initial data and assumptions, which then biases later research. In their case, they started focussing on expats, but realised they needed to also be thinking about non-residents. And they discovered that they were discounting the emotional issues of capital gains associated with bereavement, divorce, and other difficult live events.

Kat Gough and Lewis Childs, Universal Credit

Kat and Lewis were looking at how people find work.

They started with desk research, including sources like Citizens Advice and Jobcentres. They then looked at other services, such as government and commercial job search and job application apps.

The next step was a series of interventions, such as creating a prototype job board to see how people interacted with information about job opportunities.

Jeremy and Lior, HS2

Jeremy and Lior told us about the work that HS2 had done to learn more about the technology needs of their staff.

They started with popup mini interviews. Through this approach, they managed to speak with over 50 people across all sites, for between 10-30 mins each, within the first two weeks of the project

Next they ran tool-based interviews, using A3 worksheets to help staff talk through their typical working week.

The team also developed ‘cultural probe’ research kits for participants to log all their activities over the course of a week, focussing on the technology they used.

As a result, HS2 now have a much better understanding of their staff, captured in a carefully crafted set of personas. They also have a toolkit, and some experience of how to do user research.

You can find out more on the GDS User Research blog.

Anja Maerz, Future Cities Catapult

Anja told us about the discovery work her organisation had done on improving ambulance services. The discovery was small scale, and looked at the big picture of ambulance services.

She started with desk research about the language used, and collected stories about experiences with ambulance services. Then Anja worked with the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust to capture organisational knowledge and check understanding.

The team then interviewed members of the ambulance service, using maps, vehicles, and other tools to make the research more engaging. They joined an ambulance crew for a ride in a Rapid Response Vehicle. And they used urban observation at key junctions in Liverpool - filming and observing people reacting to ambulances.

Finally the team used time boxed ideation, including asking teams to produce a concept and use the cover of the organisation magazine to present it.

You can find out more about the project on the Future Cities Catapult blog.

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Featured image by the author.

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