5lessons

We’ve been busy at DMA with some amazing projects over the past couple of months. This period has seen us covering topics as wide ranging as domestic violence, homelessness, biosecurity and ICT as service.

The one thing the projects have had in common is the label and intent of ‘co-design’.

We usually don’t use the term ‘co-design’. We do service design, we collaborate, iterate, navigate, all the -ates! We help work out how things are, how things could and should change, and then we define and describe that change. But ‘co-design’ as a term is hot (or, at least, back). For the most part, when we’re approached for some co-design it’s totally appropriate, but we’ve definitely been learning some new lessons and firming up some truths.

 

Lesson 1: A workshop alone is not co-design

For us the process of design involves deep research (desk and in the field), observation, collaboration, analysis and synthesis. A technique within collaboration is developing and delivering a workshop, but the workshop itself, on its own, is not co-design.

We’ve been faced with requests for co-design processes where we, as the design leads, have had no opportunity to do background research, no influence over attendees, and been required to prepare ‘co-design templates’ for use but no further involvement – that is not ‘co-design’. It disrespects the discipline, but worse, it disrespects the people you want to co-design with; from recipient to deliverer.

In fact, when offered a project like this recently, we said no.

Luckily with our clients, and our appreciation of the constraints of community organisations and some Departments, when faced with only limited opportunity to do background research and a requirement of a workshop-only approach we’ve been able to set the activity to work optimally by:

  1. Talking directly with subject matter experts in order to design the workshop with respect to known and shared knowledge.
  2. Describe to the client the types of people who NEED to be invited to make a working session buzz.

The resulting and hard-earned “we trust you” in the development of material means we’ve pulled off some amazing (but tight) co-design processes. It can be done lean, but the workshop isn’t enough.

That brings us to our next lesson…

 

Lesson 2: Co-design must be a led process

We define co-design as:

The process of deliberately engaging users of the system, deliverers of services and other experts, being led by experts such as designers, to actively understand, explore and ultimately change a system together.

In practice what this means is that just because you have an activity to elicit collaborative development of services as a designer, you do more than facilitate. You lead. You challenge. You push. You set up design activities that take the pressure off participants to begin with a blank page, and instead start with a framework for people to collaboratively fill in as a prompt for conversation.

People are there because they know their stuff or have lived experience, that means designers must provide the freedom to explore with focus, within intent.

The wonderful result we’ve experienced is skeptics of the process turning around, quiet voices turning vocal, and insight and content developing that has moved change agents from discussion to action.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and sunshine…

 

Lesson 3: Sometimes empathy means you just have to shut up

We recently ran a series of workshops to explore the service needs and expectations of a number of different cultural groups and demographic cohorts in identified geographic areas of need. These have had to be repeatable and scalable and result in content that turned into practical information. Two workshops stand out where with all the background research, preparation of the event for participants, and all the ‘design professionalism’ in the world meant almost nothing when faced with very justifiably angry people – not with us personally, but with the agent we represented, and the system they are, by their reckoning, ‘forced’ to operate under.

As much as we wanted the participants to “just work with us to get what we needed for our design-led process”, we realised we had to just shut up. Just listen and make sure to listen to understand, not to get ready to respond.

What we were doing made sense, and worked for 90% of the audiences we’d engaged, but design is about people, and experiences, and empathy. And sometimes letting people just ‘be’ is important in terms of creating community (not just design outcomes).

Related to understanding before responding is…

 

Lesson 4: Analysing and creating are different processes

So don’t try and do them at the same time. This especially matters when you’re dealing with multiple projects, not to mention multiple topics.

Analysis gives you focus. You must develop understanding of what you have before moving too quickly to what it means. It helps the people you’re co-designing with. It helps to be more effective when multiple artefacts for multiple audiences are required. That means sometimes you have to demand this time and focus of the client, of participants in a workshop.

When you do this, then you can really create something together.

Which brings us to our final lesson…

 

Lesson 5: There is no co-design without people

No matter how ideal or not a co-design process is, they don’t happen at all without agencies willing to think differently, and uncover possibility. In all five projects, the agencies we worked with were willing to open up their traditional decision-making process to the sometimes difficult and confronting process of co-design (even when they asked for it).

And for every great agency you need willing participants. To get true lived experience of service systems and deep insights about service delivery, you need experienced and willing service deliverers and users. And this means taking them away from their day jobs. It was a shock for us to realise that many of the participants in our processes not only had to do the day job but were also called upon to go to so many co-design activities some barely have time to do their work; so you need to respect that.

 

Postscript: participants, service delivers and agency representatives have sought us out to express their appreciation of the co-design experience and it makes it all worthwhile:

  • “I truly believe that for the first time we have been able to talk about what’s important in a way that embraces the expertise and experiences of the sector. Thank you for designing a process that has enabled us to talk about the important things in a non-threatening way.”
  • “[the] design work is really connected to the experience of people and workers. It matters, and it makes a difference.”
  • “[the experience was] very genuine, and created a space for the sector to have conversation that it doesn’t always have – and it was good being pushed by knowledgeable outsiders.”
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COTA

Recently we partnered with the local branch of the Council of the Ageing (COTA-ACT) to host a forum exploring what the future of travel looked like for older non-drivers in Canberra.

COTA-ACT were focused on looking at innovation, and exploring whether there was more to life than ‘just buses’ for older people, and as a result they brought together an exceptional panel of transport innovators including:

  • Graham McKerchar from the community transport program at Belconnen Community Services.
  • David Gambrill from the ‘Bus Plus’ project at NICTA.
  • Jessika Loefstedt – Manager of Public Policy and Government Relations with Uber.
  • Ian Corey from the Community Transport Coordination Centre and the Flexible Bus Service in Territory and Municipal Services Directorate.
  • Tracey Atkinson and Dean Hemana, dedicated Place Managers from Capital Metro, Canberra’s Light Rail project.

While the transport experts were at the forum to ‘pitch’ their service (or intended future service) to the participants, we started the conversation with the participants talking about their current experiences and what is or might be important about their travel journeys – as service users. The responses were diverse, but overall the kind of experience people were after included some stand-out hallmarks.

The hallmarks of the travel experience included:

  • Flexibility – just because people were old and couldn’t drive wasn’t a reason that they shouldn’t have spontaneity of social interactions supported.
  • Safety – not just the infrastructure but the journey itself in terms comfort and the impact of things like having to stand.
  • Cohesion – If older people get off a bus (e.g. at the hospital) and then have a dangerous walk to get inside due to construction, that is not a good journey.
  • Connection – transport that supports social circles, not just formal ‘older people’ events.

The travel experts were challenged by a vocal and engaged group of of people. They offered a range of potentially exciting and practical options for older non-drivers, including Uber making a commitment to return to the group for more structured demonstrations of its smartphone app

The Forum was an outstanding success and a credit to COTA-ACT and all of the organisations involved; older non-drivers in Canberra are well-serviced now by responsive transport options, and into the future look like they will have even more innovative options that will be of value to how people want to live and participate in their community.

The summary of the Forum can be viewed as a PDF via the COTA-ACT website.

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JR

“We’re asked if we can read, write and count, but what about behave?”

“I’ve had to continually redefine myself.”

“I had to learn about how to plan my day – that meant making sure I had somewhere to go during the day. I had to learn to do that.”

 

Imagine sharing this kind of vulnerability to groups of community providers, government workers, government bureaucrats, designers, academics and civil society experts. Five former participants of the ACT justice system, willing to share their lived experience, did just that in the first of two all-day workshops exploring justice reinvestment and the potential opportunities for developing a 12-month trial based in the ACT.

When seeking the ‘user voice’ in design, engaging ‘the voice of experience’, understanding the ‘user journey’, hearing from those with ‘lived experience’ – the reality of is you are bringing someone into a process who may not have had a good or even voluntary experience of that system and you’re asking them to share this. Sometimes, you’re asking them to help shape a better system. Most often we do that one-on-one through observation or ethnographically-based interviews. But this work required rapid engagement, rapid shared understanding, rapid development and iteration.
Have we said ‘rapid’ enough?

It is possible to work quickly and to engage all the users and we wanted to use this post to share how a current project committed to ensuring that the lived experience voice was not compromised by time.

Rapid process impacts depth not breadth

The project concerned involves the exploration of potential Justice Reinvestment trials with the ACT Government’s Justice and Community Safety Directorate (JACS), ACTCOSS and the Justice Reform Group (JRG). The outcome of the work will be to identify potential candidates for the trial, with the development of concept briefs to be considered through formal governance frameworks.

The time frames and structure of the service sector mean we’ve had to move quickly and engage large numbers of people and groups from across the justice system (and other related systems like health, housing and community services). As JACS, ACTCOSS and the JRG drive this project they have still insisted on a co-design approach. They know they don’t have the answers on their own.

The challenge of working to an aggressive time frame is things have to happen fast. When moving rapidly there can be pressure to not engage with the actual users of the service, that is a particular pressure when the users are at the complex end of service delivery such as prisoners and past-detainees and their families.

But at the same time, and despite that pressure, if you don’t involve the lived experience of those people in the justice system then it simply isn’t a co-design process.

Critical to this involvement was ACTCOSS and their commitment to co-design and their relationships in the community. We wouldn’t have access to lived experience participants at all without their efforts.

Facilitating the sharing of actual experience

After kicking off the workshop with traditional scene-setting, housekeeping and approach for the day the very first session was hearing from people with experience.

Each lived experience person sat at a table that included a range of public servants, community sector people, corrections officers, social workers and others they came into contact with in their daily lives, and they were ‘interviewed’ by their support or case worker about their experience of the justice system. We prompted what the questions were but they told their story, in their words.

For them, this was not just ‘lived’ experience; they are living it everyday.

It was critical to bring this experience to the table so that participants knew that they weren’t having abstract conversations for the rest of the day – they were talking about outcomes for real people. And those people were going to be working with them for the rest of the day. That also meant that all participants were focused on driving to an outcome for people, grounded in the experience of people who would end up as potential users of the trial.

What it was like for the lived experience participants

Interestingly, we expected our participants to leave after their session – we were told that was possible and worked the design of the workshop around not expecting (or demanding) that they be there. But as it turned out, each of them got so much out of the workshop as they realised that their opinion and experience was valid, and welcomed and necessary, and every single one of them stayed for the whole workshop.

For some preparing for the workshop meant they were given an opportunity to think about their experience from a different perspective. One participant said she’d never thought about ‘support’ before and her thinking helped her realised how important her family and friend’s were, as well as the ‘formal’ programs.

Another said said that she had personally got a lot out of the interview session as she’d “never actually been asked to describe [her] experience before”.

No compromise on user experience, engagement, involvement

We don’t underestimate the courage needed by these participants to front up to the room in the first place, and while we were extremely pleased about the influence they had on proceedings from a co-design process level, we were even more pleased that they got something out of it personally too.

The workshop, the co-design, and the experience could not have been the same without these voices. Designing the process to ensure they were able to be there, able to share, be protected and valued as much as all of the other participants, meant we came a long way during the day, and the second workshop later in July focused on defining the trials will similarly benefit from the voices of lived experience.

 

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ServiceACT

We try our hardest to reflect on our work professionally, but it’s not often that we have to explain what we’ve done and how we’ve done it to a broader audience. Recently we chose to enter our ground-breaking strategic service design project with the ACT Government – in the Good Design Awards Australia. As part of that process we took time out to create a video about the project with our mates at Newcast Studios here in Canberra.

Service ACT transforms the strategic approach to the delivery of services for an entire government. With Chief Minister and Treasury, DMA re-framed what ‘one-Government’ means in the ACT by collaboratively developing a suite of strategic frameworks and conceptual models to support service delivery across the many arms of government.

The work focused on defining service and user types, visualising an entire Government service system from a user perspective and provided a principle framework for the design and delivery of current and future services, resulting in a shared language for decision-making on service design and delivery across Government and an agreed and shared philosophy on user experience.

We hope the video gives an insight into why we think this is such important work.

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digital

The digital steam train (or is that light rail) continues to career ahead. Every day Ministers, Department Heads, policy officers articulate the need for services to go digital.

A significant part of our work is looking at digital services strategically and developing digital services for clients. As we are currently in the headspace because of a digitisation project across the broadest of customer groups who regularly interact with non-government digital products and services, we wanted to capture the lessons we’ve learnt about what digital even means in a public sector service setting.

 

What is a service, What is a digital service?

A service is the seeking and receipt of a specific outcome of a customer/user across a range of interactions and touchpoints over time. The value of the service is as much about the quality of the experience for all the people involved (customer, service provider) as it is about the resolution.

To us, a digital service is simply where any aspect of that service, as defined above, utilises any aspect of ICT to enable and/or deliver the desired outcome to the customer. The value of the service is enhanced by the use of digital technology, not marked out by it.

 

What we think it means when government says it wants a digital service

While there are many areas of government that are digital converts for the right reasons, the drivers that send government to digital aren’t always about the service part of digital service.

The desire for digital services is generally wrapped in the customer-friendly language of ‘access and ease of use’, but invariably the motivation for ‘having a digital service’ seems to still be a range of factors that are very much from the government (at any level) point of view:

  • “We need to reduce costs and digital will be cheaper because the service is online and I’ll need less people.”
  • “The digital service will be entirely automated which will enable (or force) customers and clients to ‘self-manage’ which puts them in charge of their service experience.”
  • “We’re expected to reduce red tape and move things to digital to suit a whole-of-government directive.”

We think that when government uses the words ‘digital service’ it is often referring to transaction, not the broader definition of service. But part of the drive to digital from government must be that it is done for the right reason – a better service experience or outcome.

 

Four* lessons we’ve learned

A digital channel is critical. Crucial. Not optional for any organisation. But we’re service designers, not UXers, nor interaction designers or even technologists. What we see, and have been lucky enough to do when creating digital services from scratch are captured in these four un-ordered lessons:

  1. Digital service not only extends beyond the interaction or channel, it extends beyond what the public sector might even define as the service. This means that when a client asks for a transaction or data collection activity (i.e. form filing) to be digitsed where they actually need to start is by understanding the services system in order to change and improve what the service actually is from the customer perspective.
  2. Conversely, it’s not good enough for the public sector service deliverer to only think of digitising a transaction, they need to think about the designed service within which the transaction is available. This comes from our experience, and from the frustrations of clients who come to us having to build on platforms and decisions that don’t understand how they actually operate or their capabilities. It means the expectation that existing core digital platforms can even cope with the introduction of a range of digital services should be explored early – if the experience is to be a so-called seamless one.
  3. There is a an educated expectation on the part of customers that moving a service online means customers expect to see a corresponding, if not direct, drop in charges. This means service deliverers are dealing with government- and digital service-savvy customers who believe that digital is cheaper for the public sector to run and deliver.
  4. Probably don’t make it an app. This means make it device-agnostic, and consider the volume of transactions and regularity of the use of the service to determine whether the customer is willing to engage with it on the valuable digital real estate that carry around with them daily. Post-script to this lesson is make sure your organisation has a policy of responsive development for multi-device delivery.

 

Digital isn’t the end game, it’s just another in a long line of service game-changers – albeit a huge one. So making sure the service is designed – with customers, users and organisational sustainability in mind – should always be the starting point.

*as always, we have four lessons now, but we reserve the right to learn more!

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IMG_5980And as the sun sets on 2014, we thought we’d reflect on what’s been a very busy and varied year of work, conferences, forums, connections, trips and rides. Our highlights include:

  • ICT service design, particularly deep dark internal ICT service design is not only fun, it’s critical.
    Our work with the ATO this year continued to prove to us how reliant on a highly functioning, agile ICT environment all public sector service deliverers are. And it’s been great to speak about it at venues such as GovInnovate conference in November.
  • Digital has a human face.
    There has been so much talk about digital service delivery and disruption this year that its sometimes easy to forget that, in the end, it’s the human use of digital that constitutes the service. Our work with a range of ACT Government agencies has proven to us again that digital is a critical enabler, but it’s just an enabler – not the actual end game.
  • If you get the principles right you can influence an entire system.
    We’ve been lucky enough to work with a central policy agency this year in developing a service system for an entire government. The fascinating thing we’ve learnt is that frameworks, rules and visions can be developed, but a thorough and evidence based set of principles is the key to re-use of a design approach across multiple departments.
  • Designers can collaborate and in the process generate new insights for each other and our clients.
    We had an absolutely fantastic experience collaborating on a global thinkpiece this year with Snook from Scotland. An idea hatched over a coffee in Melbourne, pursued via email and google docs, and launched simultaneously on opposite sides of the world. The Development and publishing in Service Design Principles for Working With the Public Sector proved to us that collaboration with other designers is a great space to be in.
  • Investing in building networks opens up new innovation avenues.
    As much as collaboration with designers reaped major rewards our other big collaboration lesson this year was to look outside of the design box. Obviously our clients and partners come from a range of disciplines, but this year we made a special effort to formally expand our network. Whether it was a project, like with our coder and digital mate James or exploring the intersection of disciplines through groups like CollabIT or connecting with health academics on design, measurement and user-centered systemic improvement we’ve seen the value of continually expanding on the multidisciplinary nature of design.
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AboveBeyond

When we look at the work we do we always think of our clients as design partners. As partners we work with them to discover insights and opportunities to improve or create new services. In that partnership we bring technique and approaches that can often push them beyond their comfort zone and enable decisions that we (or rather the outcome of the work) might recommend or suggest. Much of the time we provide evidence for a design and spend time encouraging our clients to implement change.

That’s why we were so pleasantly surprised recently when the client pushed beyond the envelope of innovation and decision making we’d presented to them.

We are working on digitising a financial service for a local Statutory Authority. Our research has shown – on this and other similar projects – that users of government services are coming to expect ‘rewards’ for using a digital instead of face-to-face service. This makes sense in the context of online being seen as cheaper and placing more responsibility on the user to ‘get things right in their time’.

So with our current client we suggested thinking about how to make the digital service less onerous for people. In this case one of the large overheads for users is bearing the onus of proving their identity and their connection to an amount of money. Based on our work with them we suggested an amount that should apply to trigger a more streamlined burden of proof, and the service description of what should happen for people who fall into the category and asked the client to think about it.

They went back to their desks and, armed with the insights and the logic of ‘reward as reducing red tape’ that we had built for them, looked at their data.

Not only did they call us back to say that they agreed with the recommendation, they suggested – with a clear business rationale – a limit of more than twice the size of our suggestion. Effectively opening up the concept of ‘reward’ to even more of their clients.

When a client is not only a design partner, but is enabled to improve their own business decision-making and innovation parameters, we know that design as evidence for change has done its job.

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3Change

For us, service design is about design for change. Sometimes that change is improvement, but as we spend most of our time working in the public and community sectors, sometimes that means dealing with change around you and having to redesign yourself to be positioned to take advantage of that change.

After a hectic couple of months of working in a range of projects with a range of very different users and stakeholders we’ve had a chance to reflect on how real that first line actually is. We’ve also taken the time be remind ourselves how service design continues to really work.

1. Change must be designed into how a business operates

We’ve had a long-term design project with a large Federal Department running for some time that has focused on developing a Service Delivery Architecture deep in the enabling capabilities of the organisation. The intent of the work has been about how you make the service delivery of the 80% hum, in order you can free up focus on the much harder 20% of new and improved change. Moreover, being in a position to intentionally grow that 20% of time, investment and resource.

Two years of work culminated this past month in the delivery of the detailed design of Innovation and Connection phases of the Architecture. This group responds to business need, who are in turn responding to user need. What has been critical in this work has been:

  • Building into the design the informal, as well as the formal, networks and relationships. Because work doesn’t always begin with a well-written concept brief or requirements. “Kitchen conversations” happen – work with them, don’t try and stop them.
  • Constantly connecting the strategies of the organisation to the people who use their services – both internally and externally. We’ve worked hard to make sure, even though the Group may not come up with the user experience framework for all citizens, they absolutely have a clear line of sight to citizen outcomes.
  • Designing a business by connecting it to its users – and demonstrating how what this Group does helps, enables and champions what is important to those users – for strategic outcomes, and for business outcomes.
The proof that real change will happen: The Senior Executive responsible for the area, having seen the emerging Innovation and Connection Phases remarking “This means we have to fundamentally change our operating model, and I’m happy to be the first to make the changes.”

2. Change happens when you design an environment for people make the change themselves

A recent project kicked-off that leveraged the work we’d undertaken for the Digital Canberra Challenge; applying a service design approach to a local government digital product development. Our client has been trying to get a digital service off the ground for some time and in just six weeks we’ve been able to take to them from service value proposition, through design, to proof of concept stage.

But what’s been great to witness as we’ve worked with them is how they have changed their own mindsets, models, and in a few instances, the very legislation that hampers the great service they want to have. They have pointed out to us that it has been the design approach we have undertaken with them that has really fired up their thinking in terms of opportunities. We’ve done this with them:

  • By visualising how key staff currently operate using experience and service maps. For the team, it’s been the first time they’ve seen their own world represented.
  • Through conversations and on-site observation with their realities. We’ve helped them not only understand what the digital product they thought they wanted is but actually enabled them to understand what their ‘service’ actually is.
  • By designing the product as a service, defining the users and the service system as a whole. This has led to the Agency re-visiting its risk strategies and potentially making the impact of the digital service even more long-lasting and beneficial for users.
  • Through the development of an agreed set of design principles, that will guide not only this project but their ongoing business conversations.
The proof that real change will happen: A member of the team who plays the key role in the service delivery when asked to consider changing a task, saying “Oh, I don’t do it that way anymore after going through this process. I can see that I can do it differently.”

3. For real social change “Nothing about us without us” is key but that isn’t just about the participation of end users

We’ve been committed to not just working with, but applying our capabilities to support the community sector for some time. In August we were part of the sponsorship of the ACTCOSS-University of Canberra Conference “Designing Social Change: Beyond Talk, Taking Action”.

We documented the two-day conference (Conference Summary available from ACTCOSS) which meant we were busy, but also deeply engaged in discussions ranging from the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the need to move beyond GDP as a measure of society. The Conference was a great reminder of the importance of keeping the academic, activist, policy and design conversation as one.

When Sue Salthouse, from Women With Disabilities ACT, used the quote ‘Nothing about us without us’ and talked about being in the room, being allowed and respected as experts on “us” this really resonated.

In our experience and from the case study discussion on the day, this means change is beyond the “us” as recipient. It’s about working with, engaging with, designing with users, representatives, peak bodies, experts, designers, stakeholders, resisters, activists, politicians, non-users. This means:

  • Leveraging informal networks that often fill the gaps of formal connections.
  • Challenging traditional consultation models that government easily operates within e.g. “we have an answer – what do you think?”
  • Being prepared to be in a room to just listen – even if the reason you’re in the room is because you are an expert.
  • Challenging power models of government and institutional representatives if those power bases are truly seeking change and innovation for social outcomes.
The proof that real change will happen: The constant and unforgettable call to arms of representatives of different groups about listening to them and including them in the growth of the sector. Including this powerful key note from ACOSS President Cassandra Goldie.

 

 

 

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CSIRODHSConf

In 2011 two major Australian public sector organisations, the Department of Human Services (DHS) and CSIRO joined forces to establish the Human Services Delivery Research Alliance. With a focus on service delivery innovation and engaging science and services, the Alliance has led to a number of important projects over the past two years.

To celebrate the Alliance’s work, the DHS-CSIRO Service Innovation Forum was held last week. As well as presentations from projects within the Alliance, the organisers looked outside of the research projects to explore service innovation in a broader context. As part of that exploration, we were asked to present on Service Innovation in the Public Sector from a design perspective.

The presentation / conversation gave us a chance to publicly launch our collaborative think piece with Snook with a highly engaged audience of public sector service deliverers and cutting edge scientists. As always we met a group that understood the complexity of public sector design – matching the language of user-focus and co-design with the operating realities of large organisations. Of the four principles we have developed with Snook most questions and comments were around the models that help design to be sustainable in organisations – no simple answers there of course.

Once our presentation was out of the way we were able to sit back and take in one of the best collections of topics and presentations we’ve been to for a long time. Interestingly a range of project-specific presenters responded directly to our principles so it was good to see resonance across the topic areas.

Some highlights of a fascinating day included:

  • Laura Moore (ATO) and Jordan Moore (DHS) talking about ‘onboarding’ the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to the DHS-managed my.gov.au. As we were involved in early service design improvements to key components of australia.gov.au as it transitioned to myGov this was a subject we were very interested in. Their reflections on trying to create a consistent user experience across arms of Government is very much supported as a client expectation by some of our recent projects in the online services and digital space.
  • Dr David Lovell from the CSIRO Transformational Biology group transfixed us all with his exploration of innovation and how that has translated to an organisational journey for CSIRO from Divisions to Flagships and beyond. David worked closely with DMA’s first ever client over a decade ago – the CSIRO CEO.

For us, the standout presentation in terms of its application to our service design approach was given my Dr Karen Stenner from the CSIRO Behavioural Economics team. Behavioural economics has popped up in many conversations around service design in the public sector recently. We were keen to understand the links between the two disciplines rather than why one is ‘better’ than the other.

Dr Stenner spoke about a number of projects her team had worked on with DHS, experimenting with language and other prompts to encourage the use of tools as specific as DHS phone apps. The results look pretty spectacular. With just a few prompts based on social norms and other triggers (all with a deep knowledge and research base behind them) clients were drawn to online relationships where appropriate.

The interesting thing from our perspective around behavioural economics will be how the public sector choose to take it up. The work of Dr Stenner is based on years of experience and a detailed discipline approach, when people hear that a poster can create change, will the public sector just make more posters or engage the behavioural economist to find out what they should use? We hope it’s the latter.

The links between the two disciplines jumped straight out at us. The act of service prototyping, and bringing together what the behavioural economist knows about basic and irrefutable traits of humans, combined with designing the service experience from both inside-out and outside-in would be an extremely powerful combination for learning about what really works. We’re looking forward to catching up with Karen in the future.

We felt honoured to bring a service design perspective to this science / policy service forum, the fact that we learnt so much be being participants was a bonus.

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DMASnookIt seems like just a last week, but was in fact about 18 months ago, when we found out that one of our favourite designers, Sarah Drummond from Snook was visiting Oz.

After a catch up in Melbourne where we talked all things service design, it became clear that though our approaches and backgrounds might be different, our experiences of designing for the public sector had a lot of common themes – despite practicing in different hemispheres.

We decided immediately to define what these themes were, and started working on a collaborative Think Piece,

Service Design Principles for Working with the Public Sector

Which we are proudly releasing here in Australia today!

The Think Piece explores design approaches, models for design project and capability delivery, case studies on design work, our thoughts about the future of public sector design, and importantly, our joint Four Principles For Embedding Design in the Public Sector.

For both Snook and DMA it became clear that context is everything in public sector design, so things like hierarchy, procurement and the complexity of the public sector organisation itself directly affect the way you can embed design in the sector.

Accordingly, the principles are pretty simple to describe, but a challenge to implement:

  1. Apply design consciously.
  2. Recognise that the public sector is in the service business.
  3. Ensure the public sector has the capacity for design.
  4. Don’t let solutions overtake politics and policy.

The Think Piece is both an attempt to draw a line in the sand on what we know now and a call to arms, from private sector designers to and with our public sector collaborators.

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