Designing Government in Denmark

In 2002, the Danish government’s Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs conceived MindLab, what they described as an ‘internal incubator for invention and innovation.’ Since then, MindLab has become an intergovernmental space for creativity and cooperation, including ‘the active involvement of both citizens and companies in developing new public-sector solutions.’

Rather than examining the effectiveness of government policy through traditional number-crunching, MindLab uses user-centered innovation processes, including design-centered thinking, qualitative research, and policy development, to create solutions that directly improve citizens’ experiences with the government.

One of their recent projects, called “Away With the Red Tape,” searched for ways to improve encounters between citizens and the government. Within a user-centered framework, they prioritized the citizen and worked to make encounters more hospitable by eliminating outdated and unnecessary regulations in administration. Rather than collecting data on efficiency with which services are distributed, MindLab conducted interviews with different segments of the population in order to understand the real issues in citizens’ relationships with government in the administration of social services. These include providing citizens with an understanding of how the government will process legal cases, providing online platforms for services like tax refunds and insurance claims and creating strategic alliances with other actors to help in the delivery of services, information, and assistance.

MindLab is one example of a government initiative to implement user-centered design to better serve their citizens and grow a relationship with government. By partnering with the private sector and citizens in the review and redesign of public-sector policy, the Danish government has expanded the circle of participation, voice, influence, and interest in government. Further, by employing qualitative research methods, and using the accounts of individuals, MindLab can innovate ways to not only improve the delivery of social services, but also transform the relationship between the Danish government and its citizens.

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