GoodDesign16

We are so proud to have received the recognition of the Australian design community for our work with Macquarie Primary School on DesignInSchools.

This program that took a group of 10 and 11 year-olds through a formal design process has been an outstanding success. It was also an outstanding collaboration between ourselves and some of the best educators in Australia – the team from Macquarie PS led by Wendy Cave.

To win Best in Category Service Design: Education Services and Best Overall Service Design – in a competition that attracted nominations from the best of the best (with over 400 entries from across the globe in multiple categories) makes us very proud.

 

 

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LittleDesigners

There is an increasing focus in the design and innovation world on design education beyond the traditional university level to younger and younger students.

In Australia for example, as part of the Federal Government’s ‘Ideas Boom’, there has been a formal focus on STEM and innovation approaches as part of everyday learning in primary and secondary schools.

Whilst completely respecting these approaches (we think investment in STEM is critical for building the capability of all people in modern economies) the missing link for us has been the layer of design – thinking creatively to solve problems from a collaborative and human-centred position.

So we were somewhat excited in late 2015 when we were approached by one of Canberra’s most outstanding local government schools – Macquarie Primary School – to develop and implement a program with their little people we have called Design In Schools 2015 (#DiS15 on the socials).

A Design Partnership Born out of Mutual Respect

In early 2015 DMA was engaged by ACT Health to undertake research into the parental/carer preferences for encouraging active travel within their households. Macquarie Primary School was a pilot school for the project. During the short piece of research we realised we’d been introduced to a pretty special teaching and learning group at Macquarie and we set about building a strong  relationship with the Principal, Wendy Cave and her Executive Team including Deputy Principal Brendan Briggs.

In November 2015 an opportunity arose to explore, with students at Macquarie, design as a problem-solving discipline and how it can act as an extension of their education focus on research as a viable career path. This was to build on the school focus of inquiry-based learning and research, and to show that these are skills and approaches that have ‘real world’ application.

Having seen us in action on the Active Travel project, Wendy asked us to present to the kids about what we do, as service designers, ‘for a living’. But we wanted more. Talking to kids (‘little people’ in Macquarie vernacular) would be good, but we reasoned working with them to actually undertake some service design would be great.

So rather than presenting to the students about DMA as a company or service design as a discipline, it was decided that a collaborative design project be developed so that the ‘little people’ at Macquarie, could practice being designers.

  • For Macquarie, the students would learn how to apply their existing research skills into a new approach or methodology (Service Design) and school management would get a focused, professional piece of design work undertaken around a key school issue – the experience of their school car park.
  • For DMA, the project would be a chance to see how ‘little people’ think and work through a formal design process.

For the school community, a detailed design specification with recommendations on how to address car park safety and enhancing the experience of the car park for users would be delivered.

The desire to undertake the project was both to satisfy an interest we have as designers in how younger people think about and interact with design concepts before having any formal design training and to also engage with a teaching cohort who are outstanding educators and researchers in their own right.

The Design Project – A Better Car Park Experience

We’ll write more about the approach and methodology later, but we essentially introduced a group of 11 year olds to being part of a service design team over six project sessions moving from intent through to design research, analysis, prototyping, prototype testing and solution development. The topic was a real problem in the school – the perception that the school had a dangerous car park and the intent of the approach to problem solving was that we lead the process, but the students led the solutioning, not the adults (despite some voices of protest from a couple of adults).

The sessions were split between the end of 2015 when the little people were in Year 5, and the start of 2016 when they had come back to school to be in their final year as Year 6s. The same group of 18 + their amazing teacher Faith Bentley stayed with us for the life of the project.

As well as trying to solve a serious issue for the school, we were interested in exploring some key themes as we moved through the project:

  • Would ‘little people’ take to purposeful play, rather than just play?
  • Would theory through practice, rather than ‘teaching design skills’ be a successful model?
  • How would ‘little people’ think and cope with formal methodological processes?
  • How would ‘little people’ cope with being expected to act as collaborators – organising to work as much as being ‘led and taught’?

We were also interested in seeing first hand, whether the oft quoted reflection ‘if only we could be as creative and open thinking as children’ was actually a real concept. Would we see floods of openness creativity and innovation, just because this was a group of young people? For guidance and inspirations we found ourselves referring to Sir Ken Robsinon’s Changing Education Paradigms talk.

Initial Reflections

We are going to talk and write about this a lot more once we are done (we delivered the draft design specification to Wendy this week), but after interviewing some of the little people (our team) and their teacher Faith (our design partner) towards the end of the project, we wanted to share their responses to design.

The sound is ordinary but the reflections are extraordinary ;)

  • Listen to some of the little people talk about design (2.39)

  • Listen to our design partner Faith Bentley talk about design (4.05)


Enjoy! There’s lots more reflection to come on this project that we were delighted and in the end honoured to be part of.

You can see our reflections from the field on this project by checking out #DiS15 on Instagram or Twitter

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Another working year comes to a close at DMA HQ.

Christmas Greetings!

Christmas Greetings!

This year we have applied our service design skills to the worlds of ICT, taxation, biosecurity, domestic violence, community co-design of services, working with little designers, homelessness, the service experience of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities, Justice Reinvestment, the future of travel, active travel for school children and many other areas along the way.

It’s time for these service designers to take a breath and re-charge after an amazing year of creation, collaboration and making.

To all of our partners, in particular the countless front line service deliverers who gave us their time this year (and for whom there is no real ‘down time’), thank you and we look forward to seeing you in January!

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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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