Learning through Prototyping
Rob Bates, Creative Director, FutureGov, 22 November, 2019

FutureGov was pleased to partner with NLGN for the latest Innovation Briefing, “Testing Ideas through Prototyping”. In this briefing, we’re exploring the benefits and opportunities that arise when we create the time and space to bring prototyping practices into our work.

At a time when years of austerity has caused constraints and fiscal uncertainty, the public sector is under increasing pressure to achieve more with less. We have to think and act creatively to support more experimental mindsets, that allow organisations to respond to change and to address the complex and changing issues of the 21st century. From our experience, this means helping public institutions open up the space for experimentation. We believe that prototyping is a powerful way of helping to do that.

Prototyping is the act of developing early stage mock-ups of an idea, product or service. Through the process of making, we’re forced to turn our most intangible ideas into something real so we can test, get feedback and quickly iterate at low cost. Through short cycles of iteration, we’re testing and validating our riskiest assumptions, easily course correcting when services or solutions aren’t meeting the needs of citizens.

It’s not a solo endeavour, nor one only afforded to designers. Prototyping is a collaborative process which encourages us to work in the open. Putting something into the world that isn’t finished can often feel uncomfortable. It goes against our natural instincts to want to show polished or finished solutions. But by inviting others into the process, sharing our ideas early and often, we create buy-in, fostering relationships that will help our ideas sustain and thrive.

Prototyping is ultimately a process of learning. It’s both a noun and a verb. The act of prototyping helps us better understand the issue we’re trying to solve and support a continuous learning mindset into the way we work. For these reasons, we are proud to partner with NLGN for this briefing, sharing our approaches and examples from others.

Rob Bates is Creative Director at FutureGov and Associate Lecturer at University of the Arts. He can be contacted at

NLGN Innovation Briefings are available exclusively for NLGN members. For more information about NLGN membership please contact Richard Nelmes, Head of Events and Network on