DI Webinar – Marion Lean

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Making space- mindset design, another new hat for designers in policy?

The words ‘disrupt’ and ‘radical’ make people feel uncomfortable, so let’s say it’s about helping people to think differently. As professional designer-in-policy I have been exploring the conditions required to embed design and creative practice in policy settings to support policy professionals to act as advocates and commissioners for design, and to strengthen the internal capacity for design research that is not focussed on service or digital design.

In ‘What does design do for policy-makers’ Durose et al (2023) have proposed that the ‘purpose’ of design can take 3 forms- to achieve specified goals, to open up policy making and to unsettle policy making. This framing helps to contextualise 3 main approaches that I employ to generate visibility and interest in design methods-

• Co-design coaching

• Pop up studios for policy people

• Data Feminism in Design Research

During this talk I will share ideas about the merits and challenges for designers positioned in policy using examples from my design research practice with policy makers working on Rural Broadband and Farming.


Dr Marion Leanis a textile design researcher and co-design coach leading policymakers who are engaging real people and communities to build better outcomes for Farming using design at the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs. Following a previous posting as Design Researcher for the Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme at the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport she also continues to explore modes for participatory rural research with the Centre for Digital Citizens at Newcastle University.

To identify and communicate the conditions and connectivity needs for present and future farming, we brought together multiple perspectives (lived experiences living and working on farms, technology experts, and academics) in a series of research products to inform engagement for the DCMS Project Gigabit “Very Hard to Reach” public consultation. Research led by Marion Lean and Cate Hopkins, Game board developed by ThomFong Design (2021).

“Fantasy Farming” is a cooperative game that was played by Civil Service Live conference delegates to work through a policy problem using principles of co-design (developed by the Defra Co-design Team). By taking part they learned about the benefits of including citizens and communities as well as the challenges – like finding the ‘right’ people to include and how long it really takes to listen to each perspective (up to 3 times as long as ‘traditional’ policymaking).

Running Order

16.00 – Welcome by John Vines

16.10 – Talk by Marion Lean

16.40 – Q&A

17.00 – End

Limited seats at Inspace are available, please book tickets in advance.

* Please note that this webinar will be recorded *

Inspace or Zoom