Making spending decisions in a hot coral state

It’s the Money Advice Service’s (MAS) Talk Money Week, and here at the Behavioural Insights Team we’ve been talking about our new partnership with the challenger bank Monzo. Together we’ll be developing and testing new product features to help people use the trademark hot coral card to budget and manage their spending.

Behavioural science has the potential to have an enormous impact on how people manage their money. One in four UK citizens is ‘financially squeezed’, with their finances so finely balanced that an unexpected bill could lead to problem debt as well as significant stress and anxiety. Through our Financial Capability Lab partnership with MAS, we’ve been designing ways to encourage people to control their spending, build a savings buffer, and become more financially resilient over time.

Testing ‘Card Controls’ with Monzo

One of the ideas generated in the Lab that we are particularly excited about is called Card Controller (see p.40-41 in the report). In that report we suggest giving people more power over the way they use their money by adding controls they can switch on and off. The new features could include things like letting customers decide if they want to make certain types of spending more difficult or letting them nominate a trusted person who can be notified and asked to approve certain transactions. For this partnership we will use these ideas to build on existing Monzo features. For example, Monzo users can already choose to freeze their cards with a tap of a button, or block gambling spending from their accounts.

Our new partners at Monzo are equally enthusiastic about this idea. Monzo wants to help its customers make better decisions, and they have already developed several features that are relevant for Card Controller. For example, Monzo users can set budgets and savings goals and receive feedback (such as notifications) about whether they’re on track to meet those goals. We decided to partner to develop and test new Monzo features that can make it easier for users to achieve their financial goals.

Monzo, MAS and BIT, through the Financial Capability Lab, are all committed to transparency and to sharing what works. We will rigorously test the impact of Card Controller, and will share the results of this research (whether we find it works, or not) so that other organisations and institutions that want to help people meet their financial goals can benefit and learn from our research.

What next

The partnership between the Financial Capability Lab and Monzo should set an example of how different types of organisations can come together to help people improve their financial capability. In the Financial Capability Lab, BIT and MAS continue to work together to set up other partnerships to develop and test different ideas from our report and if you think your organisation would be a good partner please get in touch with us!

And if you do not represent an organisation, you can still contribute in an important way. Monzo’s standard practice is to ask their community to comment on ideas, share thoughts or feedback, and to ask for the things they think would make Monzo better. This work will be no different, and if you have thoughts about how we can help you meet your financial goals we encourage you to share those with Monzo. Who knows, you may just see your idea come to life.  


Original source – Behavioural Insights Team

When working with product teams, the job of a design leader is to make quick and accurate assessments about the focus and quality of the work being presented back to them. You should be able to answer the following questions. […]

Original source – Ben Holliday

Employment: a reflection on policymaking and service design

Policy has no impact without service design

Imagine: you’re unemployed. You’ve been in and out of jobs, never really feeling valued or a sense of belonging. Responsibilities like rent, bills and groceries mean you have to work, but constantly moving between roles leaves you with uncertainty. Soon, family activities like a pizza or a cinema, decrease. One day, you’re told you can access financial support if you register with the local job centre. Brilliant.

Policy has no impact without service design

Being Italian, I’ve been following what’s happening in my country. The Citizen’s Basic Income is very often in the news as one pillar of the Italian Five Stars Movement economical proposal. The name itself is confusing. They’re not proposing unconditional income for every citizen, but social support for those living below the poverty line.

Access to this support has multiple conditions:

  • at least 18 years old
  • unemployed, or receiving a salary or a pension lower than the poverty line
  • registered to a job centre
  • accepting one of the first three jobs offered
  • working a number of weekly hours in community service and attending training and upskilling courses

The role of job centres within this proposal is crucial. Though currently, they don’t work very well. Only 2.4% of the registered people found a job.

In Italy, there are 552 job centres with 8000 employees that have been helping 2.8 million people looking for a job. That means each job centre has 14 employees helping 5072 people. That’s a big difference. Each operator can help on average as many as 362 people. In other countries the ratio between staff and unemployed customers is much lower: 1 to 24 in the UK, 1 to 70 in France and 1 to 49 in Germany.

Registering with the job centre is easy, but getting in contact with staff is nearly impossible. Staff are overwhelmed with cases so when they do answer, they don’t recall your story or your skills and they don’t truly understand how to help you.

This is a prime example of a policy having no impact because it doesn’t include service design. The needs of the individual haven’t been considered. Services work in a transactional way, rather than taking a design-led, user-centred approach to build relationships that understand people’s needs. The gap between what the policy says, providing social support, and the services that are actually offered leave citizens in the grey area, unable to get the support they actually need and access to what they were promised.

Diagram: Designing for Public Services by Nesta + IDEO + Design for Future

Focus on supporting people

At FutureGov, we’ve helped local authorities work on similar challenges. Recently, we worked with Hackney Council to improve its employment services.

The initial plan from Hackney Council, based on their own discovery process, was to build a localised online job board. The aim was that a digital product would be easily found and used by residents self-sufficiently, thus improving employment rates. Stepping back from this brief, we spent time understanding the bigger picture of existing services, needs of the service staff and exploring the real needs of Hackney residents.

Our research, that has spanned from best practices research to interviews with staff and residents, unveiled two key insights. First, having a job is not always the main motivator of employment. Motivation is often linked to deeply personal ambitions like disposable income for entertainment or finding a sense of purpose. Secondly, people who struggle to find sustainable employment often use multiple services, like health services or services for those leaving care. They were missing the opportunity to provide for every need because of siloed services because they lacked a joined-up approach to supporting people.

Working together with the council through the user-led design process, our research and insight helped establish a new brief. Building on the council’s discovery, we changed the conversation between staff and residents, which traditionally focused on getting people into entry-level jobs, to thinking long-term, helping more people into new or better employment opportunities (including apprenticeships and training).

Together, we developed a working product that provides end-to-end services for users by helping frontline officers to capture better information about their users online and to support. This platform, Hackney Works, is an open-source service that is now operating live across Hackney to deliver employment services — offering a personalised and easy to use support, inspiring residents to think about their aspirations and work towards a sustainable job.

Beyond building this service, we helped the council recognise that it’s not just about creating services to find employment online. A platform alone isn’t going to help. New technology has to be supported by joined-up services, tailored to the individuals’ needs that will help us think more ambitiously about supporting people into the right opportunity.

Screenshot from

Design-thinking for outcomes

The Citizen’s Basic Income policy in Italy is a good piece of policy, that will likely be implemented poorly. As mentioned, staff are overwhelmed and people aren’t supported in the right way because their needs haven’t been considered. The existing policy, as it’s designed, won’t help to achieve meaningful, sustainable employment for the individual. Policymaking will only have an impact when working alongside a user-centred approach to redesign services understanding the real needs of the people — service managers, staff and customers.

Experimentation in this direction is possible and already being achieved at the local and national scale. In the UK, organisations like Policy Lab, who are using design, data and digital tools for policy innovation across government, and Government Digital Services, who are leading the digital transformation of the UK government, are making impactful design-led policy design at scale. It is our belief at FutureGov that any organisation, of any size, is capable of using these skills to influence innovation because when policymaking and service design work together, impactful change happens.

This post was first published by Agenda for International Development.

Employment: a reflection on policy making and service design was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

Earlier this month, a few of us from the user research team went on a seaside field trip for UX Brighton. The conference theme was ‘Advancing Research’, a topic very relevant to our work at dxw digital, so here are a few thoughts from the conference.

1. We need to go beyond user needs 

Whilst the concept has been uber-helpful for promoting user-centric thinking in government – there is MUCH more to user-centric design than User Needs. As someone who has moved from doing UCD in other parts of the public as well as private sector – I remember first encountering the GDS Service Standard and finding it’s emphasis on User Needs to be too reductive, prescriptive and to be honest a little strange. So it was refreshing to hear that Will Myddleton from the Home Office shares this view, and is coaching his team of researchers to think more broadly. This means thinking about (and seeking to understand) users as complex multi-dimensional humans. It means avoiding falling into the trap of collecting and storing user needs like football stickers. As leaders in research and design we need to be thinking beyond needs and seek to understand users as whole – their contexts, capabilities, tasks, emotions, behaviours, goals and pain points. Only by doing this will we design truly user-centric services. Will’s talk today has given me renewed energy and confidence to push beyond the points in the Service Standard and apply best-practice and thinking from wider industry.

2. Getting creative with discovery research

Exploratory interviews are something of a default in discovery research, and they are great. But in Emma Boulton’s talk on treating discovery as an expedition she shared loads of nice ideas for breaking out of the box and doing fun and interesting things at this phase. How about:

  • Gamification with cards
  • Group mood boarding
  • Time Machine
  • Drawing exercises
  • Ask participants to bring an item and discuss
  • Setting pre-tasks, like a diary study

These projective and enabling techniques can help us get the richest insights from our precious time with users. And what’s more, they keep the work fun and interesting for us researchers. Can’t wait to give some of these a go in my practice.

3. The pressing need for design-thinking at a strategic level

James Woudhuysen closed the conference with a big talk on some big ideas. He’s a name I remember from my days in the construction industry, so I was pretty surprised to see him on the bill here. But his experience and thinking about the future are broad, and his talk was inspiring and humorous in equal measure.

One of the many ideas he talked about was ‘a crisis of legitimacy and leadership’.  And in addressing this he painted a picture of a future where ‘UXers’ (and the like) are called upon more and more to help organisations set direction, and apply technology critically. Where they move up to Chief Design Officers and are given greater influence at a strategic level. This sounds like a bright future to me.

The post UX Brighton: Advancing Research appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

A section of the GOV.UK taxonomy tree showing 3 themes at level 1: 'International'. 'Health and social care' and 'Regional and local government'

One of GDS’s visions for GOV.UK is for all content to be grouped and organised based on what it’s about.

Grouping content in this way should help users find content by subject area and help government organisations manage their content.

To get there, we need publishers to tag content to a single sitewide topic taxonomy.

We recently built a taxonomy tagging interface into the Whitehall publisher app and opened it up to all publishers across government.

Publishers are presented with the full GOV.UK taxonomy and asked to tag their content to the topic or topics that best describe what the content is about.

We’ve updated 3 areas of guidance to help publishers tag to the taxonomy:

Publisher feedback

The taxonomy is not finished and never will be – it’ll always be evolving and improving.

Publisher feedback is really valuable to us because publishers often know more about their content than anyone else. We need their input to help us iterate the taxonomy.

Publishers can submit feedback about the topic taxonomy from within the tagging interface. They can suggest new topics or request changes to an existing topic, like its name or position in the taxonomy.

For example, we renamed ‘Chemical hazards’ to ‘Chemical and environmental hazards’ because a publisher told us this topic’s scope was broader than we thought.

Since we implemented the tagging interface we’ve received loads of really helpful feedback from publishers, most of which has already been acted on. Requests from publishers to make improvements to the taxonomy are now being triaged by our content support team.

Next steps

We know we need to make it easier for publishers to tag their content accurately. The tagging interface is pretty basic right now.

We’ve got lots of data about how publishers are using it, both qualitative from user research labs and quantitative from Google Analytics and BigQuery.

We’ve fed these insights into new designs for an improved interface, which will be picked up as part of a broader mission to improve the publishing workflow.

Si is an Associate Product Manager on GOV.UK.

You can follow Si on Twitter.

Original source – Inside GOV.UK

What do you want? An update on Democratic Commons!  When do you want it? As regularly as possible!

…well, that’s what you’re getting, anyway. Whether or not you know that’s what you wanted is another matter — because you could be forgiven for having completely missed the Democratic Commons,  the ambitious project that mySociety is helping to develop right now.  

Even more than that — you might think the issues that the project is addressing were all done and dusted years ago. Not having open access to basic data on elected representatives? That sounds like a 2005  issue, especially somewhere like the UK with its thriving Civic Tech sector and a government that’s declared its commitment to open data. And by ‘basic data’, we mean the fundamentals — stuff as simple as the representatives’ names,  the positions they hold and the areas they represent… not exactly rocket science, is it?

But, here we are,  it is almost 2019, and the information on who our elected representatives are is still not easily available as structured, consistent and reusable public data.

And so, we have been busy working closely with Wikidata to support a change. Here’s a rundown of everything we’ve been doing:

  • Supporting the gathering of lots of data on politicians internationally — including detailed electoral boundary data
    We’ve been working with partners around the world to get the basic data on political systems, and who is currently elected into positions, into Wikidata.  And we have the electoral boundary data to match the areas they represent.
    From the national, down to the city and local level within these cities, this data is now openly available through Wikidata and our GitHub repositories (we’re just writing the documentation for the latter, so watch this space). If you’d like to know more, contact:

The countries where efforts have been focused to model and/or gather data so far are:
Australia, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Taiwan and the UK!

Our partners include Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Fundación Conocimiento Abierto, Distintas Latitudes, g0v, Code for Pakistan, OpenUp, Open Knowledge Bangladesh and Factly.  

  • Building a tool to help you explore Wikidata and discover what data on politicians exist for any country

Specifically, a tool that helps you explore what data exists that fits the  Wikidata every politician data model (see this blog post). mySociety’s researcher Alex has been fiddling about in his spare time to create this tool, that runs off SPARQL queries.  Take a look to see what structured data currently exists for any given country – and tell us what you think!

Or, if it shows you that there ’s data missing,  get on Wikidata, and make edits. You’re welcome to ask us for help on this and we’ll be very glad to give it, but you should also know that the Wikidata Facebook group is a great place to ask questions if you’re a newbie.

  • Talking to lots of people about their need for structured, consistent and reusable data on elected representatives
    It’s all very well having all this data, but it doesn’t count for much if people aren’t using it.
    Over the past few months, I’ve been connecting with people and asking how they currently access and maintain data on politicians, and, the implications this has on their work (you may have seen a recent post asking for more examples: this still stands!).
    I’ve also been exploring how people think they could contribute and benefit from being part of a collaborative effort. Here’s a rundown of a few choice conversations:

    • We’ve spent time with Democracy Club, Open Data Manchester and Open Council Data talking about possible approaches to making UK councillor data more accessible. Sym has nicely summarised where we’re at here. I recommend joining the Democracy Club slack channel #councillors if this is something that interests you.
    • Talking to UK focused organisations such as campaign organisation 38Degrees, the brain injury association Headway and the creator of the iparl campaigning tool from Organic Campaigns about how they currently gather and maintain data on elected politicians (ways range from paying for detailed data to supporting political students to maintain spreadsheets); and exploring what they need from data for it to be useful in their work, and the implications of not having this data up to date (small charities struggle to run e-campaigns, for example, that ensure their supporters can connect to representatives).
    • Talking to international organisations who build software for nonprofits and campaigners — like New/Mode, Engaging Networks and The Action Network  — about their data needs, the struggles of candidate data, and whether any of the new data we’ve been collecting can be helpful to them (it can!). In particular, it was great to hear how useful our EveryPolitician data is for New/Mode.
    • Checking what support we can offer to our partners (as listed above) to increase reuse and maintenance of the data in the regions where they work. Also: if you know any further groups interested in reusing data on politicians for their work, please tell them about us.
    • We met with staff at Global Witness and heard how they’re using EveryPolitician data on politicians to uncover potential corruption.
    • And we checked in with the University of Colorado for an update on their project to model the biographies of members of Congress  and see if a politician’s background affects voting behaviour.  
    • We’re also supporting editathon events to improve political data, being delivered by SMEX in Lebanon (read about their event here), France based F0rk and Wikimedia España.
    • And last but very much not least: I attended the Code for All conference. It was really inspiring to meet people from our previous collaborations through Poplus such as Kharil from the Sinar Project, hear some amazing speakers and meet lots of new friends, who we hope to see more as mySociety is now a Code for All affiliate organisation. Also, I surprised myself with my enthusiasm for talking about unique identifiers over a glass of wine…!

What next?

Through November and December, we will be focusing on:

  • Delivering changes to the site to reflect our desire to source the data from Wikidata (not the current arrangement of 11,000 scrapers that keep breaking!) and offer more guidance on how to contribute political data to Wikidata.
  • Working with Wikimedia UK to create some engaging ‘how to get started on Wikidata’ and ‘editing political data’ resources to share with you all.
  • Making sure lots of people know this data exists, so they can use it (and hopefully maintain it). Got any ideas?
  • Finding out what support is needed to continue this work internationally and keep gathering people who also think this work is important — and putting together funding bids so that we can keep supporting this work

Want to get involved? Here’s how

  • Contribute to the Wikidata community: if you are Wikidata user, or keen to learn, the first step is to visit the Wikidata project page on political data. If you need guidance on tasks, do feel free to add to the Talk page to ask the community.
  • Join the conversation on the Code for All Slack channel #democratic-commons: (scroll down and find the ‘Chat with us’ button).
  • Tell us (and others) how you think you would use the data: this project can’t just be about collecting data for its own sake: it’s about it being used in a way that benefits us all. How would the Democratic Commons help your community? We’d love people to share any ideas, data visualisations, or theories, ideally in an open medium such as blog posts.  Please connect with Georgie to share.
  • Something missing from this list? Tell us! We’re @mySociety on Twitter or you can email

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

Original source – mySociety

Terence Eden and Sarah Stewart recording the podcast

In the second GDS podcast, senior writer Sarah Stewart talks to Terence Eden, Open Standards Lead at the Government Digital Service.

Terence explains the open standards mission, the challenges and triumphs of the team and how the UK is doing on the global stage.

The pair discuss innovation in government, how to ensure a sensible approach to emerging technology and the need to consider the ethical implications.

In future episodes of the GDS podcast we’ll talk to people both inside and outside GDS and discussing digital transformation, innovation and collaboration.

You can subscribe to the GDS podcast on Apple Music and all other major podcast platforms.

You can read a transcript of the podcast on Podbean.

Subscribe for blog updates.

Original source – Government Digital Service

As a general rule, legacy lock-in and monolithic IT can stifle innovation and make change harder.

You’re tied to the road map of one supplier to deliver a whole service, to which you’re just a single customer often amongst hundreds. Sometimes this all bad, particularly for a general function such as as finance or HR where there are many mature products on the market, but not often.

One alternative is to build your own services, for example around 10 years ago we created our own fault reporting service in C# .NET through which between 60% and 70% of requests for service about the roads and countryside are raised. Since then products such as Fix My Street have evolved and we were one of the first councils n the UK to create an Open311 Service.

The problem with building your own service from scratch is it takes time and resource. Just adding a couple new fields can take days of coding, testing and deploying.

So if old-school IT is inflexible, and building your own from scratch is costly, is there a better way?

Over the past couple of years we’ve been putting together a collection of technical capabilities with which to create new digital services. Our digital armoury now includes a drag and drop forms builder, GIS and Google maps, an API server, a booking platform, a search engine, a payment platform, a workflow engine, an email server, an SMS service and more.

This approach isn’t a new idea, nor is the idea mine. In fact this video from 2013 is probably more relevant now than it was then, as  technical capabilitie such as the ones I’ve listed before are more available and easily consumable.

We already took this approach this year and have automated thousands of requests which would have been re-keyed by staff, by integrating front-end forms with our back-office waste system, but this week sees the launch of something new.

Across our organisation there are spaces and equipment that can be booked by the public. Rooms, halls, sports pitches and courts, and so on. In all cases the user had to phone or email  to book and pay for them, until today.

Because today we took one of many very small steps forward, as now you can book one room online.

This is hardly revolutionary stuff, but behind the scenes we’ve been doing the difficult work to make the hard stuff easy. We’ve used our forms builder, workflow engine, booking platform, payment platform and email server to make this scalable.

In three weeks we’ll have added two more rooms, in two more weeks three tennis courts, another two weeks and we’ll have an all weather football pitch, and so on. Once we’ve included everything currently bookable, we’ll be able to create digital services to leverage assets where the overhead of manually administering bookings and payments has precluded them.

Taking this approach will allow us to move forward and upscale at pace, creating better services for our users, saving staff time and generate additional revenue. If you’re re-designing public services I suggest you investigate whether it would work for you.

Original source – Lg/Www

Through the Space in Common project we are using a series of workshops to learn how we create more constructive and inclusive conversations about what gets built where in Greater Manchester and beyond. In our latest workshop we were fortunate to have a planner from a local council present to talk us through how this…

Original source – The Democratic Society

Through the Space in Common project we are using a series of workshops to learn how we create more constructive and inclusive conversations about what gets built where in Greater Manchester and beyond. At each of these we have brought together a group of people interested in the topic from a range of different angles….

Original source – The Democratic Society