Last week we ran a rapid prototyping event with a company called Fluxx based in Farringdon. A small group of people from across Parliament - from the Digital Service, the House of Commons and the House of Lords - gathered at the Fluxx offices, to innovate around and more significantly, make some progress on - ideas related to 'Unlocking Democracy for All'. This topic was picked because it was a key theme in the report 'Open Up' produced by the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy early in 2015.
The report considered a number of key areas in which Parliament can use digital in order to engage citizens more in the business of Parliament, make it more relevant to their everyday lives, and make Parliament more accessible and accountable.
We kicked off the event by looking at a set of stimulus - from learning about how a 'green field' digital democracy was built in Estonia, the evolution of the Parliament website over the years to some 'lateral' thinking where inspiration was drawn from everyone from Marmite and Skoda, to TED and Buzzfeed. A stand-out moment was where we played back some interviews with Year 6 pupils at a school in South West London filmed the day after they had visited Parliament - What was Parliament for? What was the difference between Parliament and the Government? What did they find silly about Parliament? Did they know more about Parliament than their families? The answers were a refreshing dose of reality!
On the first day participants were all tasked with pitching just one idea, and in just 60 minutes, we got from 17 potential ideas to just two (and built a backlog of truly inspiring ideas for the future). Then the real work started - because ideas are worthless until you get them out of your head to see what they can do. The team then split into two groups to start working on the ideas with 31 and a half hours to go.
The Rapid Start progressed, with the Teams conducting research to verify their ideas and products, getting out on the street and talking to people, using social media and simple analytics.
(Watch a Short Video here of the teams at work)
At the end of day two each team presented their concepts and prototypes back to a panel of dragons (MP Matt Warman, Edward Wood, Aileen Walker and Benet Hiscock) to be scrutinised. The products themselves are one measure of success, but what particularly struck everyone involved was the collaboration, creativity and clear focus of each of the teams. We will be continuing momentum with this work over the next 4 weeks together with our colleagues from the House of Lords and House of Commons. Invites will be going out for the show and tells, so do come along and find out what the teams built. There will also be an update at our all-staff briefing on 24 March
The point of the exercise is not only to make tangible progress on ideas that move on the aims of the theme of ‘Unlocking Democracy for All’ but also to look at a new collaborative and lean ways of working from which confidence in the ability of digital to achieve real world change can be grown.
With the upcoming devolved Parliament elections and Mayoral elections, as well as the EU Referendum, there should be plenty of opportunity to really add value in the coming months - as well as plenty of opportunities to use lean techniques to learn about whether or not these ideas are really worth progressing, by testing them in the real world sooner rather than later.