Leaving the EU and Common Agricultural Policy has presented UK farming with the biggest challenge in a generation.
With new legislative powers at the UK's disposal, a new agenda was set for the future of farming as part of the 25 year Environment plan.
To meet non-disclosure agreements, information maybe obfuscated. Views written are my own.
Agricultural Environmental Schemes (AES) have been part of the farming landscape for over 20 years. Their aim is to offset the impact of intensive farming to help preserve our environment.
Accompanying the uncertainty that Brexit created for many UK farms, came an opportunity to bring a new mandate through the 25 year environment plan, including:
- Clean air
- Clean and plentiful water
- Thriving plants and wildlife
- Reduction in and protection from environmental hazards
- Adaptation to and mitigation of climate change
- Beauty, heritage and engagement with the environment
Previous schemes had struggled to strike the balance between uptake levels and environmental benefits.
Key objectives included:
- Design a new simple service to replace existing AES with improved scheme uptake
- Working across the Future Farming programme to create a joined-up experience for farmers
- Rebuilding trust with the farming community after years of mixed farming messages
Working closely with Defra's Policy team, Forestry Commission, Environment Agency and Natural England to understand goals, scope and constraints.
Listening to the experiences of farmers and foresters to understand the farming context, pain points and opportunities.
Interaction & content design
Understanding the bigger picture then refining the detail:
- Sketching preliminary designs and drafting content for interfaces and user guidance
- Building responsive HTML / CSS prototypes working to WCAG
- Testing and iterating the interface to optimise user experience
- Working to GOV.UK design patterns
Research & analysis
Meeting with a wide range of service users to understand their needs, experiences and identify opportunities.
Formulating and running workshops, conducting analysis and building evidence to drive design decisions.
The Design Sprint
The following case study details a 5 day workshop conducted with the Environmental Land Management (ELM) and Tree Health policy teams as part of our wider Alpha work.
We were keen to explore how we could encourage different workstreams to work together to help deliver positive policy outcomes whilst supporting the needs of our service users.
Bringing together the right people for the amount of time needed was one of our biggest challenges. After some convincing (and diary juggling) we confirmed our invites and set a date.
We based our workshop on Google Venture's process. If you're interested in running your own event, GV provide more detailed information (opens in a new tab).
- Investigate how design thinking can be applied to policy design
- Create wider awareness of user centred design methods to deliver tangible learning and help de-risk delivery
- Build a workshop format which can be reused to enable rapid learning across other workstreams
- Create common understanding of the ELM / Tree Health problem space
- Drive policy discussion and expedite decision making
- Generate and evaluate ideas, build a narrative and prototype
Tree Health, Forestry Commission and ELM identified a candidate problem to focus the design sprint activity:
A land manager receiving ELM payments finds a tree disease in their woodland.
We explored this scenario from a user’s perspective and investigated a simple service design which supported wider tree health resilience.
Start at the end
We discussed and agreed what a successful outcome looked like:
Our services support and incentivise woodland managers toward good behaviours which deliver a resilient woodland landscape.
Mapping the problem
Ask the experts
Pick a target
Create & review gallery
Create a storyboard
Create the steps
Create the prototype
Building the prototype
Test with woodland managers
Unfortunately the final day of user research was delayed pending agreement from senior stakeholders and we didn't get to test our prototype. However we did take many positive learnings from the design sprint.
Despite not being able to test our prototype with users, we felt many of our program and service sprint goals had been achieved:
Program level outcomes
- Successful investigation of how design thinking can be applied to policy design
- Wider awareness created of user centred design methods
- Creation of a reusable workshop format to enable rapid learning across other workstreams
Service level outcomes
- Common understanding developed of the problem space
- Policy discussion across workstreams with rapid decision making
- Team ideation, evaluation and build of a testable idea
On reflection, we felt that the time and effort to organise and facilitate the design sprint paid dividends in terms of the insights and common understanding created.