TPDL Productization Guides
There are many ways to conduct a Tech Policy Design Lab. In order to determine the best productization strategy, address the five core components of TPDLs:
- Partner organizations
Determining the scale of the TPDL depends on the level of maturity of each of these five core components.
Below are three recommended TPDL productization strategies depending on timing and resources:
1. Landscape TPDL: 2 months
This format is suited to a problem that stakeholders are trying to understand whether to engage more deeply.
Team: Equivalent of 2 full-time persons
- Facilitation and Outreach Lead
- Researcher/SME lead
2. Policy Proposal TPDL: 6 months
This format is suited to a problem that a significant community is seeking solutions to consider.
Team: Equivalent of 3 full-time persons
- Project Manager
- Facilitation and Outreach Lead / Engagement Manager / Engagement officer
- Researcher/SME lea
3. Accountability TPDL - 1 year
This format is suited to a problem that a significant community is seeking a solution to address and carry forward.
Team: equivalent of four full-time persons
- Project Manager
- Offramp partner - to carry the work and accountability forward
- Facilitation and Outreach Lead
- Researcher/SME lead
Questions to ask yourself before conducting a TPDL:
- Are you considering global perspectives?
- What is your safety protocol for group roundtables, workshops, or feedback sessions?
- What are the timezone considerations?
- How will you compensate or pay people?
- What are the language barriers (i.e. will you need translators, is it better to be conducted through written word vs verbally, do you have ice breakers that work globally)?
TPDLs take place at the intersection of technology, policy, and design. These three communities have different norms and ways of working that can be confusing or uncomfortable when encountered for the first time. Here are some design mindset, do and don'ts, and other considerations to keep in mind when running a TPDL.
- It takes different kinds of knowledge
Running a TPDL takes expertise in combating online gender-based violence, feminist organizing, policy, design, event-facilitation, liaising with tech companies, and more. That’s an unrealistic list of competencies for one person, so finding ways to partner across disciplines is important for success. Design norms in particular may be confusing for people encountering them for the first time.
- Sometimes things fall flat or fail
Convening groups of people and listening is an important part of running a TPDL, but not every set of prompts and questions is going to be successful for every audience. Breaking down silos and pushing boundaries is difficult work, and some questions will be difficult to respond to and lead to awkward silences. That’s a normal part of design-led work, and gives the team valuable information that they need to talk less and listen more.
- Managing ambiguity is a hard and unfamiliar thing
Embracing ambiguity is a hallmark of design-driven approaches and can be a very different way of working than traditional tech policy.. One way to describe the process is through a Double Diamond model which shows ideas diverging and getting broader over the course of a project. This is in contrast to other models of progressively refining and getting more specific as the project goes on. Making an intentional effort to relax constraints, explore more ideas, and hesitate before refining a single solution can be confusing. Making explicit time for exploration, even when far along in the project, can help TPDLs obtain high-quality design impact.
- Multi-stakeholder engagement requires patience and dedication
Sustained interaction with a diverse group of stakeholders requires a heavy lift in project management. Working across timezones, with groups of people with limited availability requires detailed attention to scheduling, outreach, follow-up, and management. Taking time to establish ground-rules of contribution, specifically what kind of feedback is helpful at a particular point in the process and what are appropriate venues and times for giving it are essential to communicate.
- “Let’s consult with the Global North”
Being mindful of power dynamics, including the ways that people from outside the United States and Europe are called upon to consult on projects. Let people set the agenda and give them the ability to consult with the Global North if and when it’s helpful to their goals.
- Create methodologies that allow you to generate links and talks immediately with the communities you want to work with. Some examples:
- Whatsapp interviews: Instead of heavy bandwidth and time consuming zoom recorded interviews - conducting interviews through recorded voice messages via WhatsApp can allow the interviewee to respond asynchronously and more easily. It is recommended to send the list of questions and work the interview asynchronously, in such a way that they can build common reflections.
- Jamboard: Create a space in Jamboard where different reflections that were the result of the discussion that was held can be brought together can allow for better visual comprehension/translation of a discussion and asynchronous participation.
- Landscape research. Studying the creation of public policies in your country will not be so complicated if we take into account some of the following factors before starting:
- Read all documentation, videos, posts and materials that you find that have been created by NGOs, governments, companies and independent activists to understand the different perspectives from which the same problem is addressed.
- Document the actions and commitments that governments and companies have acquired.
- Compare the actions with other countries in the region in which you live or even with other regions with which we might have similarities, such as Asia or Africa.
Common pitfalls and problems
- Lack of domain knowledge and process knowledge in the same team
- Lack of communication between teams
- Language barriers
- Extremely diverse timezones
- Lack of response to questions or conversations
TPDL can result in a myriad of outputs, the most typical being
- Product prototypes and/or
- Policy recommendations
- Changes in Processes
For further understanding, check out real world examples of TPDL in action.
TPDL can be an effective platform and medium to conduct research, develop policy recommendations, and engage with stakeholders to address the challenges and opportunities presented by technology in the community it serves.
These following best practices contribute to a successful TPDL:
- Clearly define your mission and goals
What is the problem you are trying to solve? What does success look like? A TPDL should have a clear mission and set of goals that align with the needs and challenges of the community it serves. This will help guide the research and policy recommendations of the lab.
- Bring together a diverse group of experts
TPDLs are most successful when experts from a variety of disciplines, with diverse experiences and backgrounds get together. As you are thinking through who are “experts,” reflect on who has been involved and who has been missing from the conversation? Who’s perspectives are critical to understanding the problem and addressing the problem? Who hasn’t been brought together on the issue yet?
- Conduct thorough research
TPDLs should conduct thorough research on the issues they are studying to ensure that their policy recommendations are well-informed and evidence-based.
- Engage with stakeholders
TPDLs should engage with stakeholders, such as policymakers, industry leaders, and members of the community, to ensure that their policy recommendations are relevant and responsive to the needs of the community.
- Be transparent and communicate effectively
TPDLs should be transparent about their methods and findings, and communicate their research and policy recommendations clearly and effectively to stakeholders.
- Continuously evaluate and improve
TPDLs should continuously evaluate and improve their operations and processes to ensure that they are meeting their goals and delivering value to the community.
- Foster a culture of collaboration and networking
TPDLs should foster a culture of collaboration and network with other TPDLs, research centers, and organizations working on similar issues.
How to design a TPDL Challenge Activity
- Identify people and organizations interested in particular issues.
- Defining what good looks like/actionable changes.
- Describing benefits in human language.
Activity: Description of positive change (a fill-in-the-blank activity with specific-outcomes we want to see)
Each statement needs:
- Organization(s) to drive change
- Actors to make the change could be companies, government, etc.
- Action to measure
- People — the users or beneficiaries
- Benefit — value statement
In a group, spend 5-10 minutes completing some positive change statements on your own. Challenge yourself to write 3 and see how different can you make them? After each person has at least one example, it’s time to discuss.
Some suggested discussion questions:
- How different or similar are the actors your group wants to change?
- How are companies different from governments?
- What makes a good action statement?
- Are you personally in a position to make some of these changes?