MindLab is one of the best known and most referenced public sector innovation labs in the world. It works directly with government departments and teams to strengthen the link between policy and service delivery, and puts design at the heart of public sector projects.

The increasing interest in public sector labs has prompted many to ask MindLab questions about its purpose and past. Acknowledging the pace of change and the gaps in its own knowledge around how it was set up, the team decided to map out its journey in order to better share insights with new team members, stakeholders and practitioners around the world.

With the support of Design for Europe, MindLab designed a tool that would also help others reflect on their own key milestones and decision-making points when navigating through the challenges of embedding design within public administrations and citizen led services. Below, Anette Væring – Project Manager and Designer at MindLab – talks through the process.

Telling the story

We were invited to give a talk on MindLab’s experience as a lab at this summer’s LabWorks, a two-day gathering in London which brought together public innovators from across the world. We wanted not only to tell the story of MindLab, but also to use the opportunity to create material that would help us in our own understanding of who we are and where our strategy should lead us. As MindLab focuses on end users, it came naturally to involve and engage participants to reflect on their own lab practices from around the world.

Inspired by Design for Europe’s aim of developing and spreading design tools, we saw the seminar as a possibility to look into new ways of understanding and using our experience constructively.

User journey mapping

Prior to the seminar, we mapped the journey of MindLab with inputs from several stakeholders. We used a well-known design tool called user journeys which we have tested numerous times in our lab work in order to understand our end users’ contact with authorities. The idea is to map every single interaction between a user and ‘the system’. This method makes it possible to discuss which parts have potential for improvement in various projects, hence why we decided to apply the method to our own lab. We took a dose of our own medicine, so to speak.

As we have never done this before, it was fruitful to understand MindLab’s interaction with authorities and path through ‘the system’. The result was a mapped journey of the past 10 years, divided into six generations focusing on decisive moments, research, people, and projects.

Common ground

The session at LabWorks was full of curious people with educational and professional backgrounds from similar fields. We did a presentation on the main learnings from our journey and invited the audience to write down their own decisive moments.

LabWorks participants using the journey mapping tool

It was truly inspiring to see how for everyone many of the decisive moments were really hard to control and, with that in mind, it was a very interesting tool to use when working with our own strategy as a lab. Our further work and our next iteration and testing of the tool will be shared with Design for Europe. If you are interested in testing the tool you can see our journey below or download a blank journey for your own reflections.