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9:00 AM
Welcome and Opening Remarks

Join Claire Blaustein, AIGA DC Board President, as she welcomes all attendees and speakers.

9:15 AM
Welcome and Opening Keynote: Prioritizing Empathy to Achieve Lasting Change

After some opening remarks from AIGA DC Board President Claire Blaustein, we'll move into our opening keynote.

Amy J. Wilson, is the author of Empathy for Change: How to Create a More Understanding World and former Presidential Innovation Fellow between two administrations. Speaking from her experience building and the Better Government Movement, she will highlight the challenges of leading change when shifting under leadership that does not value the same things. She’ll discuss strategies on how we might overcome these challenges for preparing to lead change with confidence and deeper awareness of our needs as well as the people we serve. In this keynote, participants will:

  • Understand why we must lead with empathy, humility, and equity based on current research and knowledge;
  • See why and how own internal work is necessary to create a ripple effect in our communities and the world at large;
  • Learn how to shift power, culture, and systems thinking to lead a revolution steeped in empathy in order to innovate and lead change.
10:00 AM
Creating Accessible Content for Digital Government

Find out what Marian Avery and Kevin McLaughlin have been doing to make UK government web content and services accessible to everyone. This talk is for anyone who is interested in creating a more inclusive user experience with better content design. No matter if you’re just starting out, or if you’ve been designing content for years. Get tips and tricks to make your content accessible for all users. In this talk, you’ll learn about the impacts of inaccessible content, how to avoid accessibility mistakes, and where to find easy fixes and get quick wins.

Lightning Talks

Transforming Technology the 10x Way

Will Cahoe

An introduction to the 10x method, an innovative approach to improving the public’s experience with government that emphasizes the creativity of civil servants, embraces unknown outcomes, and approaches government technology projects as investments, rather than expenditures.

Creating a People-centred Approach in Government Digital Services: Outside In or Inside Out?

Premika PoSaw

A discussion on Government e-services and how we can start approaching the empathy gap: do we make things better or make better things?

Keeping Older Adults Housed Through Inclusive Design

Adam Motiwala

Learn how to utilize Design Thinking and Lean UX principles to increase government services to vulnerable populations online.

Applying Lessons Learned from Estonia’s e-State Journey

Joel Burke

Estonia is well known as a global leader in e-governance with 99% of government services accessible online. Join Joel Burke, former Head of Business Development for the Estonian e-Residency program and a former MOCTO (NYC Mayor’s Office of the CTO) fellow for a brief distillation of the core lessons and principles learned from Estonia’s journey from a poor baltic country to a digital nation.

Human Centered City Permitting

Alex Johnston

What would happen if you put entrepreneurs in charge of City Hall for a day? Come join us for a deep dive on how a group of public servants and entrepreneurs worked side by side to reimagine the permitting and licensing process in Detroit.

Journey Mapping Access to Justice

Kansas City, KS Court Administrator, Crystal Sprague and Chief Judge, Brandelyn Nichols-Brajkovic, will discuss how they've leveraged user-centered design principles and created journey maps to increase access to justice. During the process (pre-covid), the City journey mapped dozens of services, and in the process of doing so confirmed concerns around equal access to justice issues. Within 24 hours of doing a map, the Judge and Court Administrator initiated a new policy and put in place a judicial administrative order to make it easier for people to interact with the Municipal Court.

During this session, the panelists will discuss:

  • How they've built a strong culture internally helping staff understand their role in user-centered design
  • How governments can build journey maps to highlight policy, operations and/or simply implement web/content changes
  • How to empower and engage employees at all levels in the process of identifying service gaps and delivering better customer service
Context-Aware Systems: Preparing for a Culture Shift in Data Design and Trust

As a society we now recognize the widespread social justice implications from pervasive algorithmic decision-making. We need to shift what is at the forefront of our cultural reckoning surrounding data. We need to make clear that embedded bias is inherent to our systems and that ethical governance considerations are a prerequisite to data usage.

In this talk we’ll highlight new collaboration models for technology development that are grounded in inclusive and equitable practices, through what we at Civic Software Foundation call Context-Aware Systems. The CIVIC Data Library of Context is one upcoming program that is building on these practices. The Library itself is a living artifact of collaboration — an open metadata platform to document the context of embedded biases and inform ethical governance.

Join us to learn what this can mean for your organization, your community, and our greater societal understanding of data-driven decision-making.As a society we now recognize the widespread social justice implications from pervasive algorithmic decision-making. We need to shift what is at the forefront of our cultural reckoning surrounding data. We need to make clear that embedded bias is inherent to our systems and that ethical governance considerations are a prerequisite to data usage.

In this talk we’ll highlight new collaboration models for technology development that are grounded in inclusive and equitable practices, through what we at Civic Software Foundation call Context-Aware Systems. The CIVIC Data Library of Context is one upcoming program that is building on these practices. The Library itself is a living artifact of collaboration - an open metadata platform to document the context of embedded biases and inform ethical governance.

11:45 AM
Digital Accessibility: A Crucial Ingredient of Ethical Civic Tech Design

Digital accessibility is about designing and creating content and technology that works for everyone, including people with disabilities. Accessibility is the difference between including and excluding employees, members of the public, program participants and more. Accessibility is essential to diversity and inclusion. Accessibility is a civil right of disabled people, protected by laws in the United States and beyond. For these reasons and more, accessibility is essential to practicing ethical civic design. Bring your questions and come learn about why accessibility is so important to ethical civic tech design. We'll talk about ethics in the civic design space, what the law has recently been saying about accessibility and collaborative tools to help you advance accessibility whatever your role in civic tech.

Designing Inclusive + Effective Tech Sprints: Lessons from Five Years of Designing The Opportunity Project

Open innovation sprints are popping up at federal agencies like HHS, CFPB, Commerce and more as a tool to co-create visual and technology solutions alongside stakeholders from the public. These engagements, ranging from daylong design-a-thons to multi-week tech sprints, create opportunities for designers to work with the government, but vary in terms of who is invited to participate and how their feedback is incorporated. Design decisions are important in this entire process. Carefully crafting an open innovation engagement is critical to ensure that diverse audiences have a chance to contribute to and benefit from the results, and access the business channels that these engagements can open. The Opportunity Project (TOP), a 12-week tech development sprint process, is one such program that has been meticulously designed over the past 5 years. This program started as a scrappy 6 week sprint in the White House in 2016, and has evolved into a finely tuned, 12-week program at the Department of Commerce. Along the way, a team of dozens of people worked to hone the model and make improvements that target product impact, inclusion and representation, and public interest tech sustainability. Join two members of the team’s current leadership, along with a civic technologist and former TOP deputy director to hear the inside scoop on some of our most critical design decisions, how we think about failure, audience discussion on where we all see tech/design sprints going next, and opportunities to engage.

Beyond Adoption - Adapting Design to Public Sector Justice Values. From 'For' to 'With' to 'By' People

We've adopted design tools from the private sector. How might we adapt them to public sector justice values? What might designers learn from local government 'experts' of the past? Might designers risk falling into the same hubris of 'expert' urban planners and data-driven 'stat' programs? Experts whose trust in methods and mindsets ravaged people, especially communities of color? We'll take a quick history tour to prepare for an emergent future. We'll explore how we've gone from a government 'for customers' to one 'with users.' Then we ask together 'How might we build a government/democracy BY PEOPLE?' Recognizing government is people, too. Together, we'll lift up bright spots. Can the government be a platform for local leaders to solve problems together? "

During this workshop, we'll ask the questions using a series of Liberating Structures (Impromptu Connecting, 1,2,4,ALL, Improv Prototyping, 15% Solutions) to include and unleash all participants in creating this future together.

Why Type Design Matters in Government

What makes a typeface future-proof for organisations where accessibility, stability and reliability is key? How does the use of type encapsulate the expression of a city in a way that is both accessible and functional? From the importance of type in digital formats to wayfinding in civic spaces, Eleni’s talk will address these questions and discuss why type design matters for governments.

With ever-evolving advancements in technology, how we ‘consume’ written content is changing — we need to ensure that type remains effective by rethinking how it behaves in new media and digital formats. The environments where type appears can vary greatly so typefaces must not only focus on aesthetics, they must also be multifunctional, scalable, and accessible to ensure a message always relates with the audience. In this talk, Eleni will illustrate how type has responded to digital advancements and will explore why it is a powerful tool for governments to communicate seamlessly in both physical and digital formats.

Beyond digital formats, Eleni will also address the importance of type design when developing identities for cities and places. Using examples from Dalton Maag’s work with the City of Vienna and Southampton City Council, she will discuss how a typeface designed for a place needs to balance many important requirements. It must capture not only the expression of a city or place, but also address the fundamental need for accessibility, functionality, and the different linguistic needs of an entire population.

1:00 PM
The Content Strategy of Civil Discourse: Turning Conflict into Collaboration

In the current political climate, it seems like we’ve all but given up on productive, respectful discourse. However, there are simple design and content strategy choices we can make that encourage collaboration over conflict, even when dealing with hot-button issues. In this session we’ll look at real-world examples of how the way we phrase a question or design an interaction can have a huge impact on the quality of conversation, and the three rules they share.

Transforming Government Services with Empathy: Lessons From the Launch of

In the midst of a global pandemic and historic civil reckoning, access to reliable and empathetic government services are more important than ever. And yet, we continue to see technology meant to serve the people instead creating barriers to those most in need. Too often the result of an act-first, ask-later mentality, the people themselves are left out of the conversation. In this session, 18F Director of Product Uchenna Moka-Solana and Lead Product Designer Aviva Oskow will dive into the launch of — a revolutionary new tool for the public to submit civil rights complaints to the Department of Justice. Sharing their framework for collaborative and empathy-centered service delivery, they will walk through lessons learned, challenges faced, and the impact of bringing federal civil rights into the 21st century.

The Readability of Government Information

When we speak of government we tend to have an image of a single entity speaking in a uniform voice. This could not be further from the truth, as the government is made up of myriad agencies and departments, often each with their own agenda and certainly with their own ways of communication.

Naturally, each agency and department have areas of responsibility and need to communicate in a particular fashion to the benefit of citizens. However, we can often find great disparity in the emotional, functional, and technical accessibility of departments. The reason for this can usually be found in the lack of proper funding and the lack of champions who highlight the needs of those using the services. The UK government has made great strides in unifying the government appearance and the way it communicates with its citizens. Its services have become all the more accessible because of that.

The panel will discuss what makes for good typography in government bearing in mind that Western countries such as the USA or the UK are made up of many different ethnic groups that do not necessarily have English or even the Latin alphabet as their first means of communication. It will also look at how good practice in typography can benefit those with lower educational attainments and literacy skills.

This panel discussion is about accessibility in typography considering emotional, functional, and technical aspects. It is aimed at design professionals and communication officers.

Eye Spy Design: CIA’s New Look

Join three panelists from the CIA's Office of Public Affairs as they discuss their website rebrand and social media presence.

2:45 PM
Designing a Tech Talent Movement for the People, by the People

It's no secret that the Government's IT is falling behind, but most don't realize that so is our workforce. Today, nearly 20% of the federal workforce is eligible for retirement. Our government doesn't just need a technology movement, it needs a technologists movement — pathways to bring in hundreds (if not thousands) more designers, innovators, data scientists, and technologists into the public sector workforce and to support those in government already. This panel will share and uncover how public interest technology thought leaders are working together to reimagine the technical talent pipeline and build a 21st century civic tech workforce.

Building Solutions and Empathy: Using Co-creation with Government Personnel to Inspire Design and Improve Services with the U.S. Navy

The US Navy Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command is responsible for delivering weather and environmental forecasts and visualizations to support the decision making of Navy, Coast Guard, and civilian sailors and scientists. They have partnered with the Navy’s Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG) Program to reimagine how they deliver and improve their products and support.

The Navy’s TANG Program has always believed in radical partnership to solve gnarly challenges with the DoD and uses a suite of Human-Centered Design and rapid prototyping approaches to bring the voice of our uniformed and government service partners to the design table.

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged our ability to build together in person and has driven us to develop approaches that have made our design process even more accessible to our partners. At the end of January 2021, the TANG Program executed an all-remote co-creation event that teamed up government personnel with UI/UX Designers to kick off 3 months of prototyping. Our challenge is to improve the tools and processes to empower teams to “streamline routine operations so they can better swarm complex missions.”

Further, we will discuss how giving government personnel the tools and support to wireframe their solutions and share solutions directly with decision makers built deep empathy and better understanding of the community needs.

This talk is for anyone interested in exploring new approaches to integrating design into government operations. Especially government leaders or team members who are wondering how to engage with designers and leverage design to solve apparently intractable problems. For advanced designers interested in expanding their tool kit we will also share practices we have found successful in facilitating a large virtual co-creation event.

Shifting Power in Design

Designers yield a lot of power in their role as they hold the key to methodology and solutions, which allows them to influence research and design outcomes—through ownership of the process, access to people and information, the ability to assign validity and value to findings and ideas, as well as authorship and praise.

This talk introduces three critical moments that designers typically create and maintain asymmetrical power relations:

  • The relationship between designer and community;
  • The exchange and distribution of benefits of the design process; and
  • The framing of conclusions and outcomes

Drawing from critical feminist, Indigenous, anti-oppressive, and resistance-oriented research texts, as well as using a case study that translated lessons from those texts into the design process, this talk will support attendees in building their capacity to recognize power differentials and, ultimately, cede power.

Equity in Government Forms: Improving Federal Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Data Collection

“If you don’t collect data on somebody, they become invisible.” This quote from a federal civil servant speaks to the need for improving federal Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) data collection. In order to prioritize the needs of all the people we serve in government, we must first understand who they are. During this talk, we’ll discuss our findings and best practices from conversations with more than 40 civil servants and representatives of 10 nongovernmental and community-led organizations about the need for better SOGI data collection. We’ll explain SOGI data collection concepts that can be valuable to anyone — from designers to policy experts to engineers — interested in creating more equitable systems that better serve more people.

4:30 PM
Trauma-Informed Design for Public Service

Although we may not always know, designers encounter individuals with a presence or history of trauma. Trauma-informed design acknowledges the prevalence of adversity in peoples’ lives and works to understand how trauma shapes one’s fundamental beliefs about the world and the way they live their life. This approach is especially relevant for public and service design and delivery as, all too often, individuals have been traumatized by the very services we are working to improve. By rethinking current methods and integrating principles from helping fields like social work, trauma-informed design centers the safety and empowerment of the people we collaborate with in the design process. This session will introduce trauma-informed methods for design, including real-life examples from Social Workers Who Design, U.S. Digital Service, and Code for America.

Lightning Talks

Strategic Design: Increasing the Maturity of Your Org One Project at a Time

Victor Udoewa

Have you ever noticed how the dark matter - organizational structure, legal apparatus, policy frameworks - have a bigger impact on your project than your design and engineering skills? Come find out how to use a single project for a product to go beyond product design and begin to design the dark matter increasing the design maturity of your organization.

Making Accessibility More Approachable: The Importance of Not Speaking Over Your Clients Head with Product Management & Reporting

Scott Spector

Still trying to figure out what Section 508 & WCAG is and wondering how you can change your clients from having a "just check the box" mindset into true advocates for a more accessible future? Join us as we talk through how Product Managers, Project Managers, and UX/Visual Designers can change the perception of what doesn't need to be such an intimidating subject, and how to make a real measurable positive impact in the world at the same time.

Building Design Empathy Remotely

Elyse Voegeli

Join Elyse Voegeli from the NYC Mayor's Office of the CTO to learn about remotely connecting with user research participants through the lens of a COVID relief program.

The Dashboard Confessionals: A Overview of COVID-19 Dashboard, Gov Communications, and How Not to Model Uncertainty

Hunter Owens

In March 2020, Hunter Owens had a new job: public health data and content design. Join a deep dive into a year in COVID-19 modeling and hear about what (mostly) didn't work.

Promoting health equity in Covid-19 vaccine access and communication

Elham Ali, Johanna Yi

Join Elham Ali and Johanna Yi for a conversation about practicing health equity principles to communicate digitally and distribute COVID-19 vaccine equitably for marginalized communities.

Together, Changing the Lyme Disease Status Quo

Trust is a major component of starting any innovation program. At the Department of Health and Human Services, we strive to meet the American people and learn from them at every step. We are working diligently to build trusting relationships with previously underserved communities, including patients. Our grassroots approach to public health innovation informs our programs by listening to the experiences of the people we serve. We developed the Health+ methodology to tackle critical health challenges from COVID-19 to Sickle Cell to Lyme disease. Using design, data, and technology, we're empowering HHS to find solutions to the problems we face. Health+ harnesses human-centered design methods, open data, and crowdsourcing to catalyze innovation and secure an equitable and healthy future for all Americans. In this panel session, you'll hear about how Health+ is facilitating patient-centered innovations as part of the LymeX public-private partnership with the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and how to apply these design methods in your own projects. The panel will be moderated by Health+ Director and IT Specialist Alex Wilson. It will feature perspectives from the Chief Experience Officer working directly with individuals living with Lyme disease, the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, and the HHS Chief Data Scientist with direct lived experience.

22 New Ideas for How the Government Can Wield Technology to Serve the Public

This panel discussion will highlight the General Services Administration’s investment in 22 new projects to improve how the government serves the public using technology. Most of the projects explicitly emphasize equity in service delivery and rebuilding trust with the public. Let’s talk about the projects with the folks who chose them.

The General Services Administration 10x Projects

6:15 PM
Designing Government Transformation: Why the mantra “the strategy is delivery” is not enough

The UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) championed this mantra: The strategy is delivery. This mantra comes up over and over again in the civic tech and data space. Well, based on over a decade of working in government transformation, I don’t think it’s enough. Yes delivery matters. But at the same time, if you only focus on delivery, you eventually end up with a series of projects that will be orphaned then absorbed by the infinite complexity of a large organization. That’s why you must strategically design not only your team's portfolio but your own trajectory in government service.

6:45 PM
Closing Remarks

Join AIGA DC President Claire Blaustein as we close the 2021 DotGov Design Conference