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User research for government around the world

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User research is a team sport poster

Here at GDS we are privileged to meet digital teams from around the world, and we often stay in touch well after our first meeting.

We share what has worked for us - embedding researchers in teams, asking teams to get their exposure hours, making sure projects include proper discovery phases. We’ll often give people a tour of our user research lab when they come to visit. Sometimes we’re helping them work out how to get started, sometimes we’re sharing experiences, often we’re learning from them.

Same, but different

Recently we had our colleagues from the USDS and 18F visit, and it was really valuable to discuss the similarities and divergences in our approaches, and how we can learn from each other.

Since January I’ve been talking to Dana Chisnell from USDS. We’ve been swapping stories about the projects we’re each working on and how we’re overcoming the different challenges we face.

We’ve each had similar challenges unblocking the ability to do user research inside government - recruiting participants, paying incentives, making sure we’re managing the data from research properly. We’ve both come to realise that in many cases there are some myths and assumptions about what’s allowed in government and and what is not. Turns out that in most cases, doing user research in government is very similar to doing private sector user research. Professional recruiting and incentivising (paying) participants is good practice and ensures that the research can be done quickly and efficiently.

Working together worldwide

It’s not just the USDS. We’ve shared our experiences with governments from around the world including  Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Spain, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, and Israel to name a few. We’ve shared what we’ve learned about doing user research to transform government services with the D5 at their summit in London last year.

We have a lot to learn from around the world too. We’ve shared a number of Google Hangouts late in our evenings with the team in New Zealand. The NZ team have been really generous in sharing the research they’ve been doing to understand people’s experience of government at key life transitions like moving to the country, having a baby, taking on higher education. This has been really useful to help challenge and inform our thinking about similar experiences here in the UK.

It is exciting to see governments around the world get more and more interested in transforming their services with a focus on user needs.

To continue this conversation we’ve set up a Slack channel for people leading on user research in governments around the world. If you’d like to join the conversation, get in touch:

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Nathan W posted on

    Hey Leisa

    The NZ team says "HI!" *waves*

    The Slack channel sounds like a great idea - it will give us a new way of sharing, and save you guys from some of the late nights, and us from the early morning starts 😉

    We continue to use the UK as an exemplar - the tools and techniques you use often find their way into the work we're doing. As for sharing? Honestly, it's the least we could do. These conversations, the continuing interest around meeting user needs is a result of the research, experiments and sharing the UK has been doing right throughout your journey.

    Don't underestimate the effect you all have had on other digital teams around the world - it's immense.