Experience Symposium 2021: 3 government highlights
The public sector track of the Experience Symposium saw thought leaders and practitioners explore everything from the role of transparency in building trust in government, to enabling public sector employees to have a bigger impact on the communities they serve.
With keynote sessions from former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, and New York Times Best-Selling Author, Poet, and Educator Kwame Alexander, and sessions from the COVID Tracking Project, Office of Management and Budget, and many more, it was a packed event.
Here’s 3 key sessions you won’t want to miss.
1. Think ‘human first’, not ‘user first’ in designing experiences
“We’re designing services for humans, not citizens or users,” said Jamaal Davis, Customer Experience Manager, Allegheny County Dept of Human Services.
In his session he highlighted the importance in the public sector of empathizing with people as humans, rather than seeing them as ‘products’. It’s a finer point of language, but an important one as the team at Allegheny County looks to design with empathy.
Jamaal uses the example of a project to connect with parents in vulnerable communities to help them access the services available to them.
“We approach it thinking ‘this is the person we want to serve, what are they experiencing in life, and what can we build to fit into that?’ and we co-created the services with them,” he said.
Right down to the hierarchy on the website, the team put the humans that would use the services at the heart of the process and the end result was ‘priceless’, says Jamaal.
“We’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of people using the website and the opt-in rates have been significantly higher,” he says.
“When you go into these communities that feel like they haven’t been listened to and attended to, word gets around very quickly and one thing we are very proud of is the fact we made the community feel part of the process itself.”
2. Transparency is essential to building trust
Cited by over 1,000 academic papers and used by the Trump and Biden administrations as well as a host of Federal agencies, the COVID Tracking Project is the definitive source of data on COVID-19 in the US.
But it came about from frustration with the existing data collection and reporting infrastructures in the country. Alexis Madrigal, Co-Founder of The COVID Tracking Project, explained in his session how the huge complications, and inconsistency in how data was collected, reported and analyzed nationally not only made policy-making challenging, but also undermined public trust.
“Time and time and time again we saw people misinterpret the data,” he said. “There were problems with taking the science of epidemiology and putting it on public display without thinking how non-specialists would view that data and make decisions based on it.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in science communities to work out what information are people seeking, how do they interpret it, and what are the best ways we can visualize that data.”
Faced with 56 different data sets, inconsistent definitions, and a whole host of ways of reporting even a simple metric like ‘deaths’ meant in the early days of the pandemic, things were messy.
Key to the COVID Tracking Project’s success though was speed and transparency, according to Alexis.
“We were able to produce data, analysis and we could do it quickly,” says Alexis. “If you can bring data in fast, and do it in a clear and transparent way, you can drive a lot of change in the world.”
3. Combine employee and customer insights to re-think how government serves people
Dustin Brown, Deputy Assistant Director, Office of Management and Budget outlined how experience management is transforming how the government serves the public.
He talked about the 3 key drivers that impact trust in government — the routines of government, the workforce culture, and the customers they serve – and how all 3 are interconnected and need to work together to design better experiences for people.
It all comes down to breaking down silos, and thinking about the journey an individual goes through as they interact with government services.
“Whether it’s a birth, a death, or a job loss, you can really better realign government services to support people’s life stages,” he says. “I think there’s a great opportunity to now reorganize the government along those lines.
“We shouldn’t be designing solutions in search of problems,” he said. “We should be using data to understand where the problems are and use that to inform policy changes.”
He pointed to the VA as one example of where an agency is not just using customer data to inform decision-making but is combining it with employee data too, to help better enable and empower the people delivering those services.
That same approach of using data to inform decision making is something agencies are now applying to the candidate experience too, as they look to attract a new generation of talent to the public sector.
“One of the things we’re hearing from agency leadership is that the workforce is one of the biggest priorities they have,” he said.
‘We really need to make this someone’s full time job to look at recruitment strategies, and assessments to make sure the best qualified candidates are coming to the top of the list.”
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