Creative and collaborative reflective thinking to support policy deliberation and decision making

Anne Spaa*, Nick Spencer, Abigail Durrant, John Vines

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Co-creation in policymaking is of increasing interest to national governments, and designers play a significant role in its introduction.

Aims and objectives: We discuss instances from our fieldwork that demonstrated how UK Policy Lab used design methods to gain insight into the design-oriented methods introduced to policymakers’ practices, and how these may influence conventional policy design processes.

Methods: This paper reports on the learnings from a two-month participant observation at UK Policy Lab conducted in early 2019.

Findings: We found that, beyond human-centred and future-oriented practices, the designers working at this unit appropriate design as a reflective practice for the context of policymaking. We discuss how the use of visual and creative methods of design are utilised by policy designers to facilitate co-creative reflective practices, and how these make a valuable contribution to policymaking practices in UK Government.

Discussion and conclusions: As deliberation and decision making is influenced both by what is thought about as well as who is doing the thinking, reflective practices allow notions and assumptions to be unpicked. Moreover, when done as a group activity, reflection leads to a co-production of a deepened understanding of policy challenges.Consequently, we argue, the reflective practices introduced by Policy Lab are an essential contribution to developing a co-creation tradition in evidence-informed policymaking processes

Key messages

Beyond human-centred and future-oriented methods, UK Policy Lab appropriates design as a reflective practice, to contribute to policymaking by supporting deliberation and decision making.

Creative and visual methods from design enable collaborative policymaking processes, as they externalise thinking and surface overlaps and differences among policymakers’ perspectives.

We argue that design can support the reflective practice of policymakers, highlighting explicit and implicit frames structuring decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-390
Number of pages14
JournalEvidence and Policy
Issue number2
Early online date15 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


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