I’ve just completed my first month at Home Office Digital as a new User Researcher, having transferred here from Natural England - part of Defra - following a stint on the Rural Pay GDS exemplar. I thought I’d share a couple of things that have particularly struck me about the work and the approach of my department.
The team is great
My first observation is that the team is very well organised and democratic. It takes an agile approach to service design very seriously, with regular stand ups and open group discussion on allocations of resource. I hear lots of colleagues talking of “user needs” and “users first”, which is a welcome revelation to me, having spent 12 years hearing instead of Government and compliance needs first. Despite a few beginner’s niggles about the amount of agile ceremony and process, I thought “work here is done”, everyone cross-discipline, is pulling towards the same goal.
It’s going to be a challenge
My second “ooh” moment was as I set about recruiting users for research and my first interviews. The significance of working for a department whose aims are to cut crime and reduce immigration, and how that impacts on both our users’ views of our motives and willingness to collaborate with us, began to dawn on me. Recruiting willing user research participants is going to be a challenge. I knew a bit about what the Home Office is responsible for, but hadn’t stopped to reflect what perceptions our stakeholders and service users might have about the Home Office’s remit and approach. It quickly became clear that trust is not a given, in fact reactions of fear, distrust and cynicism have been frequent. I’m no stranger to participant responses of ambivalence, perhaps even sarcasm as to government’s motives for improving existing services, but not such visceral suspicion.
How might we build trust about our user base?
I recognise that a user’s reaction will vary depending on the subject and service. In response, as User Researchers at the Home Office, we clearly need to work hard to create strong and trusting relationships with intermediaries and users. We are already doing this by approaching intermediaries and taking the time to visit them several times to explain our approach. We hope to convince them to share their experiences with us so that we can use that understanding to help create services which benefit all citizens. To prove this by doing it. I feel confident that HOD’s cross-team mantra of user needs first, will help me to convince users.
I’d love to hear stories from colleagues on how they’ve built trust with stakeholders and users. Please leave a comment below, or contact me directly on twitter