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  • Geoff Mulgan

Policy steering rooms

I've written a proposal with Giulio Quaggiotto on a new approach to supporting policy decisions. The full piece can be found here:

'During intense crises, governments use control rooms to help them make sense of information and guide decisions. Cross-government teams are set up, decision-making is centralised and there’s usually a physical manifestation of this shift in approach – a room that becomes the centre of things.

Every government has such a place – like Britain’s COBRA or Rio de Janeiro’s famous control centre (pictured at the end), the latter full of screens pulsating with news on real-time events, alongside data streams, social media feeds and hotlines buzzing with frontline updates. Here, the decision-makers huddle, armed with the crucial inputs they need to navigate complex, fast-moving challenges, from wars to terrorist incidents, pandemics to natural disasters.

In them, decisions are made which have to synthesise conflicting inputs – fast. As President Obama famously said when authorising the raid on Osama bin Laden’s presumed hiding place: “This is 50–50. A flip of the coin. I can’t base this decision on the notion that we have any greater certainty than that.” Yet the decision drew on lots of different kinds of intelligence and was then observed in real-time, generating one of the most iconic pictures showing the tension of decision-making in a situation room during a crisis.

But what might the equivalent be for slower crises, and the normal work of government? Could physical places be designed that would support better decision-making? We think they can and that they could provide answers to three overlapping issues:

● First, how to bring together the key indicators that governments need to guide decisions;

● Second, how to best visualise these in ways that can be absorbed and discussed; and

● Third, how to use them to feed into decisions that are truly synthetic.

Click here for the rest of the piece ....


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