Posts tagged ‘community sector’

DangerousIdeas

We are currently supporting the ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) Biennial Conference – “ACT2020 Citizen Voice, Community Vision“.

And when we say currently, we mean it. Participants are ‘as we write’ involved in a world cafe session discussion dangerous ideas such as:

  • What changes can we make to restore / strengthen the democratising spirit of the community sector in the context of marketisation?
  • Put yourself in the shoes of public servants. What would you find hard if you had to do their job?
  • What if we took the idea of citizen voice seriously when we think about reproductive and sexual health and rights in our community?

And many others.

But we were so blown away by the keynote speeches at the start of the session, that we’ve taken time out from taking notes to think out loud about one concept in particular above – restoring the democratisation of the community sector in regards to the development of public policy.

DMA’s approach, because of our training, experience and the timing of our entry into service design at the turn of the century has always been one of ‘designing the best experience possible for people using and delivering government services’.

This approach has necessarily and deliberately separated administrative design (the experience of the services as determined by the policy and political processes) from policy design (the decision on which ‘levers’ are put in place to seek determined policy intent and outcomes).

But then we heard Prof Susan Goodwin speak, and that got us thinking about the alternative.

Prof Goodwin raised the historical context of where much public policy was developed as a result of the response of service deliverers to the needs of the people they dealt with. She asked why this democratisation and responsive approach to policy – that is, policy defined by the response of service deliverers to the lived experience of their ‘users’ rather than purely the current dominant practice of ‘evidence base’ and ‘detailed research’ as determinants of policy positions.

The call to arms for the re-democratisation of the public policy process asks fundamentally for a change in the current approach:

Research and Academic Expertise > Policy Development
> Political Approval and filtering > Legislation and Regulation Development
> Administrative Implementation > Review and Evaluate

to a much more democratic vision driven by up-front responsiveness, not to the elitism of empirical evidence and markets, but to the lived experience as understood by the very people receiving services and the organisations delivering them.

We have no doubt people would argue now that the lived experience IS a part of public policy development now.

The question for us as designers is how to enable a move from lived experience influencing part of public policy development to lived experience, and the citizen voice, being funded and supported to be the key driver of public policy development.

It’s a big question. It forces us to reflect on our view from designing the best possible administration of public systems, to using our skills to influence democratisation of the current public policy ‘industry’. We don’t know the answer, but we do know the dangerous idea has us thinking.

*In case you’re curious about the René Girard reference it’s for us to take a look at his writings The Scapegoat, and how his investigation of myth uncovers what he calls the scapegoat-mechanism, the tendency of society to collectively transfer guilt onto a sacrificial victim.

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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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CommSector

“Co-design is the new buzzword – can you help our members work out what it means?”

And so began our happily evolving journey with a number of community sector organisations such as Youth Coalition of the ACT and ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS), to name just two.

By coincidence, while recently reviewing our website content for a refresh we realised that our desire to be practitioners first was increasingly backed-up by our active role in empowering clients, and potential clients, to understand their role in a co-design process through preserving their own expertise, and drawing on practitioners and the process to facilitate desired outcomes and real change.

 

Our position on “Co-Design”

Co-design is 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.

Our motivation for engaging with groups like ACTCOSS and YouthCoACT and their member organisations is to provide an environment which prepares them with a view of what co-design means from a very practical point of view. In our case that means how co-design as an approach links with our more defined view of service design – but regardless of your design discipline, we are keen to make the point with the sector that design is, just that, a discipline.

Late last year when we saw that the respected ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) newsletter had decided to publish an edition with the title: “Co-Design: Improving Policy and Service Development and Implementation Seeing consumers as active participants and assets”. As we’d just been asked by the Youth Coalition of the ACT to present at their annual conference on a similar topic, and knew interest in the topic was at an all time high in the sector, we approached the Council to ask if we could submit an article.

The article was published in December and provides a short summary of the messages and content we delivered in full at the ACT Youth Affairs Conference.

Our preference for transferring knowledge has always been a “theory through practice” model. This has meant creating material for the sector that seeks to support their aims, and to engage in a meaningful way in an attempt to improve the capability of the sector. Consequently, our desire to educate the sector in a collaborative way has been proven to be a welcome approach. Our slideshow from the Youth Coalition Conference gained views on slideshare faster than any other presentation we’ve done. The article for ACTCOSS has received positive feedback from the sector. And the conversations we are having with a range of community peak bodies and service organisations now are based on a more mature understanding of what a co-design approach involves.

 

The challenge of the community sector

We find that too often the desire for co-designed solutions in the public and community sector leads to processes that are more about consultation than co-design, and rely on generic “design thinking” and business management tools than design discipline. As the funding bodies for community organisations start demanding “co-design” as an approach, we believe empowering organisations with a point of reference for what that actually means ensures they retain their expertise, whilst understanding and having respect for the discipline itself.

We have no doubt the drive for co-design will continue, particularly as funding bodies move more to outcome rather than output measures, and this excites us. We look forward to continuing our relationship with peak bodies like ACTCOSS and YouthCoACT to continue supporting their growing understanding of what co-design is and what it can bring.

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