“A badass bunch of women”: FutureGov + Ada’s List Bring Government Reformers Together

On 23rd June 2015, FutureGov was honoured to host Ada’s List as they convened a first-of-its-kind event: a chat with some of the most amazing government reformers and doers around.

The all-woman panel featured leaders from American and British government agencies working towards transformative change. Led by moderators Carrie Bishop (FutureGov) and Merici Vinton (IDEO, Ada’s List), more than 50 attendees listened (and participated in) a conversation with:

Hillary Hartley, Deputy Director, 18F

Lindsey Keighley, GOV.UK Programme Delivery Manager, GDS

Leisa Reichelt, Head of User Research, GDS

Emma Stace, Head of Agency Transformation, Enabling Strategy, GDS

Haley van Dyck, Deputy Administrator, USDS

For nearly two hours, Carrie and Merici led panelists through a chat that featured everything from how to break down silos to why people are taking million-dollar salary cuts to work in government. Despite the ocean separating them, UK and US reformers have a lot more in common than you might imagine. For instance:

Everyone’s focused on growth - the right way  

As these agencies add dozens, sometimes hundreds, of employees, it’s important to make sure everyone’s on the same page about what’s happening and why. Or, to put it in Hillary’s words, “Our major challenge isn’t just scaling. It’s scaling culture.

This work isn’t without its challenges."

Government reforms come and go -- one of the trickiest (but most rewarding) parts of the work, said Emma, is proving to other civil servants that you’re there to make their lives easier. There’s also an ongoing tension between fixing government as it is and building new systems fit for the future.

Diversity matters. 

In an industry where women are typically 18% of the workforce, USDS is 50% and 18F is at least 40%. Creating a team that looks like the country it serves (not just in gender representation, but in cultural background and LGBT identity) helps generate better ideas and better execution.

It’s about inspiring others.

 Or, as Haley put it, “the long tail effect” - putting systems in place that help other teams and other agencies feel empowered to create their own change. When people see the results that user-centred design can bring, they get excited about trying it themselves.

There’s never been a bigger or better moment for “digital transformation” - the idea that tough, humble, smart work can reinvent government to be built around users and their needs. And in the spirit of that moment, we can’t think of a better inaugural event for our new office space: one with half a dozen tough, humble, smart public servants working hard to make things better.

July 25, 2016