Principle 14

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14. Clearly explain why a decision has been made

When a decision is made within a service, it should be obvious to a user why this decision has been made and clearly communicated at the point at which it’s made. A user should also be given a route to contest this if they need to.

What this means in practice

• Your decisions are based on valid evidence that isn’t biased

• The reason why you made a decision is transparent to the user

• Your decisions are clearly communicated to users in a relevant and timely way

• There is a clear way for users to dispute the decision you’ve made

You’ve achieved this when

Your user understands the decisions that have been made about them and why those decisions have been made. They have a way to dispute that decision if they need to.

How to do it

Make sure your decisions are valid

Always check your decisions for potential conflicts or dead ends. And for biases that come from the way that information that is collected or used for decision-making

Make sure your decisions are transparent

Make sure that every decision you make about a user is clearly communicated to your user at the time it is made

All too often, users become aware that a past decision has been made about them that affects them now or in the future. If you can, make sure every decision that is about to be made is clearly explained up front, giving your user a chance to course correct and change their circumstances if needed

Make sure your decisions are communicated

Make it very clear to both users and staff what information has been used to make a decision and why this information is relevant for the types of decisions you need to make

Making your decisions transparent also means making sure that any staff who need to explain this to users later will be able to understand why this decision has been made

Some decisions are incredibly complex – like insurance premiums – so think about how to communicate these carefully. You can’t expect your staff or your users to understand the finer points of risk measurement, so explain enough information to help them understand why a decision has been made

Make sure there’s a way to appeal your decisions

Your decision-making process, whether algorithm-based or human won’t always be right, neither will it be able to deal with extreme circumstances that need complex human judgement of context and history

Make sure your user knows your staff have the ability to appeal a decision that they think is wrong. Even if there is little room for changing the final outcome, very little can replace the ability a human brain has to be able to make complex judgements

For more info on why this is important, see principle 15

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