Build on existing evidence
Your decisions should be based on evidence. There’s a good chance that someone else will already have produced evidence that you can re-use. It’s important to know where there is no evidence, so that you can decide if you need it and how to get it. Do not forget that your evidence may be useful to other people, so make sure that you share it.
When to do it
Do this after you begin to define the problem. This will help make sure that everyone has a similar understanding of the work, and it will help bring in new evidence and data.
How to do it
talk to a range of subject matter experts, researchers and analysts about what evidence is already available
review the evidence
look for themes or trends in the evidence
identify what else you need to know to take a good decision
refine your problem statement based on what you find
Try this activity
This activity will help you make sense of existing evidence. It will give you some themes that are emerging from the evidence and a list of evidence gaps which you might fill.
Time, space and materials
1 hour, but lots of preparation needed
a space with a large wall, sticky notes, paper and pens for a face-to-face event
or for a remote event use a video conference and online whiteboard that will take the place of the wall and enable participants to add and move online ‘sticky notes’
find as much relevant evidence as you can - speak to a range of experts, researchers and analysts, they might direct you to existing evidence
make the evidence easy to understand. It will be displayed on a wall, so make sure that the font is big enough. Each piece of evidence should be stuck to one A3 piece of paper or use an online whiteboard. Use different colours to highlight the different evidence themes
if you are holding a face-to-face event, find a room with enough space for everyone involved in the project to walk around freely and then stick each sheet of evidence to the wall - if you have grouped your evidence into themes use a different wall or part of a wall for each evidence theme so different groups have space to discuss the evidence
People to include
a researcher or analyst, if you have one
any number of people
a facilitator to give the instructions
Divide people into small groups and give them an A3 piece of paper.
Give each group a question about the problem to focus on. Some example questions are:
How do people experience the problem?
What is causing problem?
Who is affected?
What future changes could affect this problem?
What are other countries or organisations doing?
What are people’s views on this problem?
What are the opportunities or barriers that people face?
Each group should write their question at the top of their A3 paper. Move around the evidence; spend 10 minutes in each area. Read and discuss the evidence. Write your findings on sticky notes, one finding per sticky note. Stick your notes to your A3 paper.
In your groups, discuss the evidence and what you think this means. Discuss, what other evidence is needed to fully answer your question. Present your findings visually on your A3 paper or the online whiteboard. Get ready to feedback to everyone else.
In turn, each group should present their findings to everyone else.
You now have some analysis of the existing evidence and a list of further evidence to gather.
encourage people to present their findings clearly on the paper or the online whiteboard because this is your record of their analysis
try asking groups to imagine that they are different users, ask them to pick out the evidence that is relevant to that user and begin to build a user journey
if you have limited time and data, do a version where you ask everyone to write down 3 to 5 bits of evidence or known facts, then ask them to group them by theme - this will give you a sense of where people think evidence is, or should be
Find out more about this topic by searching the internet for:
Government service manual: sharing your user research findings (evidence safari)
Cabinet Office: what works network