Posts tagged ‘Design’

2017 saw the culmination of the delivery of our DesignInSchools pilot project with our trip with the team to the Service Design Network Global Conference where we picked up an award.

Lots of talk at the conference and since then was/is about design at scale, and we’ve been contacted and asked a number of times about how we were going to ‘scale’ DiS. With the word scale there is an immediate perception of increasing numbers – of moving more people through a program.

At DMA we are interested in impact and influence, not just volume, so we thought we would give you an update on what we have been up to.

The journey to deliver the first DiS was not just about the project at Macquarie Primary School itself. It was about the kids and the design problem, but it also became about building an ongoing and meaningful relationship with educators and thinking about influencing the education system in Australia at a systemic level.

Young People – Educators – Education

The more we thought about these three levels – capability of young people, education leadership and the service design of education itself – the more we realised that the type of scale we must focus on had to be across all three.

So, rather than scaling the product people know as DesignInSchools by running multiple projects, we’ve scaled by developing and delivering DesignInSchools approaches across three deliberate levels of collaboration with the education sector.

 

 

Level 1 – The Core DesignInSchool Project Approach

Student Capacity for Design as part of the Australian Curriculum.

INTENTION
The core and original intent of DesignInSchools was to work with young people (primary school age) to solve real design problems in their community, and that intent remains.

APPROACH
This level of the product involves DMA directly leading a specific design project in a school with a small group of students as the primary design team as we did with the Macquarie Primary School group. There are a number of prerequisites or conditions that must exist for us to take on a design team – in essence they form the guiding principles of the first level of DiS:

  1. There is an existing ‘real’ issue/problem that effects the school community – practical design is required.
  2. There is an intention and commitment from the Principal or Vice Principal to support the project and manage the school community expectations – the design project has a sponsor.
  3. There is an identified cohort of 10 to 20 Year 5 to Year 6 Students able to be committed to the process. Students don’t need to belong to the same class, but common teachers help – the team is right sized, multi disciplinary and diverse.
  4. There is professional Design Support in a leading, mentoring or validation role – professional designers lead.

IN PRACTICE
The Level 1 product is still in the form of the original Macquarie project. It has a curriculum (three workbooks that fit neatly into the Australian Curriculum ‘technologies’ component) and template artefacts (intent documentation, design specification format).

We look forward to delivering more of these Level 1 projects directly with young people as they arise.

 

 

Level 2 – Mentoring Educators to Deliver Design

Educator Leadership through Teacher Capability Building

When delivering our core product the first time around with Macquarie, we were blown away by the feedback and reflection from our Educator-Partner Faith Bentley, about how much DiS had helped her as an educator. By exploring this concept we started to plan for this new level of delivery.

INTENTION
Level 2 of the product involves DMA tailoring the design project approach and materials to facilitate delivery in collaboration with a key educator at a mentoring level. In this level of the project the focus of DMA is on skilling the educator and supporting them, so that they can deliver the facilitation of the project in a way that builds their capability.

The conditions of Level 1 remain – real problems and real teams. The design led process becomes design mentoring. Our aims are pretty clear with this level of product – deliver DiS to many more places BUT only if and when it leads to direct teacher mentoring and capability building.

APPROACH
The Educator Leadership product is a ten session structure.

  • DMA leads a large-scale Design101 kick off and runs the process at the key ‘design-heavy’points (research, analysis, prototyping), but the teacher leads the project with the aim of a single composite workbook and session running sheets. The teacher can then be flexible in delivery depending on the availability of the student design team and their own confidence and strengths.

IN PRACTICE
We are currently running a Level 2 project with local school Red Hill PS through Term 3 after being approached by Red Hill Principal, Louise Owens, about undertaking project focused on the design of an outdoor space at the school.

We were keen to work with Red Hill for a number of reasons, including the Red Hill philosophy which aims to create partnerships with parents and the community that assist students to be active compassionate, lifelong learners who are internationally minded global citizens. This commitment to partnership and compassion is an important value in DesignInSchools.

Also, delivery of DesignInSchools at Red Hill would be the first time it has been delivered in an International Baccalaureate setting. The IB Mission Statement, that it “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect” fits directly into the aims of Design In Schools and DMA.

We have worked closely with our Educator-Partner, Helene Halliday, to structure the program to ensure it can be assessed in the IB context. Mentoring Helene has allowed us to translate key design approaches and language into her IB and artistic practice, ensuring she acquires new skills and approaches, but does so in a sustainable way for her work as an educator.

This alignment of DesignInSchools with the practical necessities of fitting curriculum requirements is essential for it to create an impact, rather than design being seen as a ‘fun, project based add on to the ‘real’ work of education’.

 

Level 3 – Supporting Education Leaders to Design their World

The Service Design of Education through Executive Leadership

INTENTION
The final level of scale is our focus on the design of education and education leadership. This level involves DMA directly mentoring school Principals and Executives to use service design to shape the school itself.

Our goal with this level is to move beyond ‘design as the education topic’ to ‘service design as the driver for strategic education decisions.’

The inspiration from our approach to this level of delivery came after a series of conference presentations to the Education Sector about DesignInSchools. We quickly realised that we weren’t simply reporting on the outcomes of DiS from the perspective of the young people involved, we were starting serious strategic design conversations with the audience about how service design could be used to organise and ‘design’ their education approach and community.

APPROACH
In working with a Principal we have regular catch-ups (generally an hour a week and a three hour per term intensive session) to define and deliver a clear educational intent for their school and school community. Through the regular mentoring sessions a design approach is brought to education management questions and the technique of visualisation is utilised to build a narrative for the principal around what they are trying to achieve.

IN PRACTICE
We are delivering one Level 3 engagement at the moment, with one of Canberra’s oldest schools, Ainslie PS. 2018 saw the school appoint a new Principal (and old Collaborator, Wendy Cave) and we are working closely with her to build a service design approach into the journey she is taking the school on. The school’s emerging intent of ‘delivering sophisticated and playful education services’ is a result of our work with the school and service design is now influencing a range of pieces of work and decisions such as the school strategic plan and school improvement plan – with empathy and children at the centre.

The Level 3 approach now allows us to work with the Principal on what this emerging intent means, and we are supporting her to now design her education world. That includes student journeys, teacher capability and capacity, school improvements and engagement with community partners and stakeholders – all the kind of work that service design naturally supports.

 

Our Measures of Success

Working across three levels of the education system is an honour and a challenge. The shape of DesignInSchools has evolved in response to natural influencing opportunities that have emerged. These opportunities have come from listening to educators and education leaders about what might be missing from their current approaches and how service design can help.

DesignInSchools as a foundation, becomes a way for educators to think about approaches and thinking that go beyond their traditional pedagogy and practice and bring in whole of community and student agency concepts. Not as an add on but as an integral part of the education system within which they deliver.

Our success is predicated on making the delivery of education child-focused, building teacher capacity at a time when requirements on them are heavy and, in the end, supporting the goals of the Melbourne Declaration – which always sums up outcomes better than we ever could:

“That Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence. And that all young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.”

With this deliberate focus on influencing the system at these three levels, we feel strongly that the appropriate scale is not on growth in terms of numbers, but on depth in terms of making the changes and thinking stick.

 

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“We need design to tackle the world’s wicked problems!” is the familiar catch-cry that we are used to hearing from designers. It is a noble call to arms.

But what if we were at the point where Wicked Problems (as they have evolved in people’s approach to design thinking) ceased to be the issue that designers needed to grapple with?

What if the great challenge for designers wasn’t the Wicked Problem itself, but the desire for leaders to make Wicked Decisions?

 

Surely there are still problems?

We first heard about Wicked Problems in 2000 directly in relation to the work of Dr Richard Buchanan when he was a design mentor of the Integrated Tax Design Project in the Australian Taxation Office, of which Justin was a part, and a few years later in New Zealand’s IRD as Mel was involved in the journey to build professional service design capability there. The term Wicked Problem is older than this, of course, but Buchanan really brought it into focus for us in terms of applying design methodologies to address these problems.

As we learnt, and have been practicing for the following 18 years (15 of those across multiple service systems at DMA), the way we should strive to look at Wicked Problems is through a number of levels:

  • Take a systems thinking approach and deconstruct the ‘wickedness’ by defining and understanding the related systems at play.
  • When designing use a multi-disciplinary approach focused on facilitating a design-led dialogue about the problem and potential solutions.
  • Design the solution with a ‘fourth order design’ mindset – that is, don’t design products or services on their own, design the experience of service systems and their constituent parts.

Our work in this space has been predominantly and successfully focused on Wicked Problems in the public and community sectors. And as we move through our 18th year of practice, we have started to ask ourselves some critical questions about Wicked Problems.

From our point of view (public and community services in Australia) we and our peers now have 20 years of experience taking a systemic view of the problems that are presented to us – so why are a range the social outcomes within which we have been delivering excellent design not demonstrably better?

Continual reference – and sometimes reverence – to Wicked Problems suggests new problems emerging. But increasingly, though some elements might be new, the core systemic drivers of access, equity, resourcing, ownership and regulation in the public domain remain.

We (the design community, not just DMA) have established, built and evolved an expertise in diagnosing, researching, hypothesising and designing solutions for Wicked Problems. As experienced designers we can and do pull apart these problems quickly and expertly.

 

So why do Wicked Problems keep presenting themselves?

Firstly because the same ‘types’ of problems emerge but with new elements. AI as we know it now didn’t exist in 2000 – nor did digital for that matter. But we would contend the problems are no more ‘wicked’. The underlying design questions, needs and outcomes are the same.

Secondly, and most importantly, the Wicked Problems that we know about continue to present and emerge because of people. The greatest element of complexity in all Wicked Problems! And in this case, we don’t mean citizens, users, or consumers, we mean in terms of people who are supposed to lead and do the decision-making.

The most elegant design can present the most extraordinarily basic solutions to complex and so-called, Wicked Problems. We are then left with the question – why haven’t they been actioned?

We’re prepared to posit that at the same time we as an community have been evolving an expert capability in design’s response to Wicked Problems, the opposite is true in the field of leadership.

In the public sector people in leadership positions are still rewarded in the same way they were in 2000. The management constructs and hierarchies surrounding those making decisions has, if anything, become more narrow in the last 20 years.

Brave decisions to implement complex design responses that at their heart question and alter pre-conceived notions of ‘how things work’ are rare and generally result in ‘pilots’ or ‘trials’. Whilst the emergence of digital and technology solutions, as they always have, provide respite from the Wicked Problem, on their own they can’t and don’t address the underlying societal complexity of the problem itself.

So if the Wikipedia definition (yes, Wikipedia not Buchanan) of a Wicked Problem is a “problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize” then we have to ask ourselves:

how do we admit that maybe the Wicked is in the decision making and not the problem.

Otherwise – what have we been learning and achieving for the last 20 years…

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The only reason public service design takes place in the first place is because government has decided to offer a service. If there’s no government service, there’s no public sector service design. And at the heart of government services are rules and regulations. Even supportive services and information and education services have legislation or government ‘programs’ at their heart. And therefore the design is driven with wanting people to ‘comply’ with the core of the service offering.

We’ve recently completed a project with a client that had us re-engage with our regulatory compliance past. Helping the client design a multi-layered compliance strategy not only proved again to us the power of service design in normal project delivery processes, but reconnected and reminded us how critical ‘compliance’ is to the public service design work that we do.

DMA interpretation of the Triangle

For us, a critical and essential design tool has always been the compliance triangle. The triangle evolved from outstanding applied research work by Valerie and John Braithwaite at the ANU (and many others who worked on the associated projects). As part of the Centre for Tax System Integrity, their work developed what we all know today as the Compliance Triangle.

The triangle is a strikingly simple concept, underpinned by deep, complex bio-psycho-social theories. It was key to thinking about the range of options open to a regulator to support, direct and enforce compliance – with voluntary compliance as a key element of that support.

Any designer could read the theory of the triangle and understand immediately that it can be applied to any government created system. The more we think about, and reapply it, we think it may, inadvertently, be one of the great public sector design models.

If you think about this (almost) twenty year old model, you realise that service design projects aren’t only about doing research about the question at hand and then developing innovative solutions for the now. They are also about building in the knowledge of the past, understanding the key drivers and motivations that are inherent in the service system and the service deliverer and then researching the current and future states.

And so to the recent project.

Working with a federal agency that is implementing a new compliance approach to a critical environment means that the work results in real action and is managing real risk. This work isn’t a hypothesis, it requires definitive compliance approaches in order to minimise the ‘consequences’ of non-compliance (an understated description in this case).

The compliance work itself is asking the Agency to commit to a new model. One that broadens compliance from a narrow view of rule management to one where voluntary compliance, use of interventions across international borders and trade channels in different and new areas and collaboration within the Department are key.

The work requires us to co-design with our project team, not just a compliance approach, but a compliance posture for the Agency and the actual ability for the Agency to deliver on this posture (build the right capabilities, have the right people processes and systems).

In working with the team, we’ve brought out the triangle again. Luckily, in this case, the Department uses a version of the triangle itself, so in this case we are working with it to draw out what needs to be done. The triangle isn’t a ‘strategy’, it’s a thinking tool that allows the team to design what needs to be done to take the triangle from theory and model to practice in their very specific service system.

In working with the team, and bringing the triangle back out, we’ve been reminded of some key practices ourselves:

  • Mature compliance isn’t about rules (black and white), it’s about behaviour (decisions made in the grey).
  • In order to implement a modern compliance regime you must have knowledge:
    • Of the risk you are managing, of the service system in action (now and in the future).
    • Of the current and historical behaviour of all players within the service system. This takes data and intelligence.
  • Due to the structure of modern public sector organisations, data and intelligence is not the preserve of one team. Invariably it isn’t even managed by the team delivering the compliance strategy. So, implementing a compliance regime requires collaboration and integration of effort across the organisation, and increasingly connected agencies.
  • Integration, as a principle of compliance strategies, must be stratified across three levels or it undermines the outcomes immediately: strategic integration means the team’s strategy and approach must be in line with government and Departmental goals. Operational Integration means that the strategy must support and deliver on the departmental compliance posture and approaches. Delivery integration means that the strategy must acknowledge and design for the fact that a range of existing and new capabilities and processes will drive the strategy

These layers of integration (common to most new design efforts, not just compliance) show us how the triangle is still at the heart of the design work of the public sector. Without strategic, operational and delivery integration the department would be setting the public – the service receiver – for failure, for non-compliance.

Think of the triangle, think of the outcome of the interaction of the service receiver with the service, and invariably the triangle will inform how you design and support the right kind of service system.

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Having completed our DesignInSchools project over a year ago now (though the relationship with the wonderful Macquarie Primary School remains strong) we are using the 12 month anniversary of our win in the Good Design Awards to officially launch our paper about the project.

Co-authored with the outstanding educators we collaborated with on the project, Delivering Outcomes for People and People as Outcomes, (opens a PDF) explores the intent and outcomes of the project from the perspective of two methodologies and two practices – design and teaching.

During the project we learnt an amazing amount about the thinking that goes into constructing a context for literacy for young learners and how education leadership involves constant planning between inquiry based learning and instructive teaching practices.

We hope the paper helps build the case for inquiry-based learning, which we think is essential to helping build future generations of critical thinkers – we certainly need them!

The thinking that went into the paper is also particularly resonant for us now as we support the ACT Education Directorate as their design partner in the Future of Education conversation – a wide-ranging and ground breaking conversation between government and those interested in the experience and equity of education systems.

As always we look forward to reflections and thoughts about the work, and as always thanks to our Macquaire Primary School co-authors (and co-conspirators) Wendy Cave, Faith Bentley, Brendan Briggs and Sophie Mendick.

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As the end of 2016 rolls around we wanted to leave this globally tumultuous year, albeit a professionally landmark year for us, with four major learnings from us; as designers, collaborators, practitioners and passionate pragmatists. It’s not earth shattering, but they’re things we want to remember, and might be of use to our clients, our industry and maybe even contribute to world peace!

 

 

1. Being true to your design approach differentiates you

The service design (or actually more broadly design) market has become exceptionally broad from the one or two companies that existed when we were founded in 2003. In 2016 there was no shortage of new start ups, agencies getting acquired by big players and our usual list of collaborators and competitors. This vibrancy in the market is great, it ensures there’s competition and keeps us on our toes and fresh.

It has also taught us this year that it means we can be MORE true to ourselves, not less. When there are different players in the market you can really differentiate yourself and ensure what makes you different as a design agency comes to the fore. We have some little markers that we set prospective clients – will we actually get to their users? Are they willing to collaborate not just “buy our outputs”? and Are they happy with a small agency that doesn’t embed? (because we don’t think embedding works).

This year we’ve been able to respond to requests for quote and be quite strong on these markers – not just chase work that’s called ‘design’ but doesn’t actually fit our definition of design to fill our pipeline.

And the result when we are clear to prospective clients about our approach is that they get results. Their investment in us is rewarded with disciplined and focused design processes and our very approach means we are highly aligned with those clients who engage us – it’s a win-win!

 

 

2. Interdisciplinary works and is much more rewarding

This year yet again proved to us that there’s no room in our world for discipline snobbery. We often tell clients that being design-led is a great position to be in, but that design alone isn’t the only discipline they should be relying on.

Increasingly the mantra of the ‘interdisciplinary dance’ (thanks long-time mentor Jim Faris) becomes more and more real for us.

We’ve worked with teachers, architects (both landscape and IT), telcos, developers, project managers and program offices, specialist consultants, contract managers, social workers, children, parents, and many others this year; and each time we rely on these subject matter experts to bring the best out of us and help in the creation of meaningful design insights and solutions.

The more other disciplines are our collaborators and the less they are ‘participants in a design workshop’ the better our work becomes.

 

 

3. The Power of the well-made but not exact prototype
Sometimes the small things help big shifts. When a client was struggling to be on the same page about a conceptual shift to how they delivered services we decided it was time to mock-up a traditional A4 tri-fold brochure. We put stock photos with smiling faces articulating earnest but authentic customer needs. We plotted a service offering with different with icons and colours. We presented the brochure without preamble or comment to a team of strategic leaders.

It immediately got people talking about the right things, debating the real business problems, and enjoying the potential for solving their problems. It shifted people’s thinking from hypotheticals, to a shared understanding and a way forward.

Sketches are fantastic for most prototypes, but every now and then you need to call on the powers of being a designer and having access to graphic design, communication and copywriting skills and make a client see a possible future.

 

 

4. Designers need to get something made sometimes, to reality check good design
We were lucky enough to win an Australian Good Design Award this year in the Service Design Education Category and for Best Overall Service Design for our work with Macquarie Primary School. The project involved simultaneously working with a team of little designers and big educators on service design in practice in order to redesign the School car park.

The car park was designed and it was implemented. Every aspect of the Design Specification was put into practice. That doesn’t often happen in the design business (and with 13 years of DMA, and collectively, 34 years of design practice under our belts, we know). The win was truly fabulous for our team. But the car park getting made was equally so because you don’t always get to see how your design plays out when it hits the reality of a complex organisation – and a public school with its multi-user environment is an extremely complex environment.

But we had another win in this area when the work we’ve been doing with a major federal agency designing their operating model reached its conclusion with the final enabling area being designed – bringing an entire group, normally focused on ICT as a black box, into a more service-oriented mindset and practice. Designs that we, and other people have undertaken over the years have been tested, re-evaluated, diagnosed, re-diagnosed, adjusted, and as a design program, they all still fit together with core service principles and business intent remaining flexibly steadfast.

It’s brave of any large Agency to invest in a small company like ours – instead of a large Consultancy that ultimately might not deliver a bespoke, integrated solution, but instead offer a “proven” one. That’s the best thing about what our design partners demand of us, and what they allow us to challenge them to achieve. This connects us back to our first learning – being true to our design approach, but respecting and supporting the courage our clients/design partners make to invest in success.

It gives us faith in the system when we, and the people we’re fortunate enough to work with, truly want to make a difference to, and for people.

So, 2016, in many ways you were perplexing, but for us – you weren’t so bad ;)

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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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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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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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“It’s not faddish to try to get policies and services right for the communities that rely on them”

Article: In Defence of Design: far more than jargon (2MB)

Our Article: In Defence of Design: far more than jargon (2MB)

In our recent post Six thoughts for the Centre for Public Sector Design’s future CEO we put forth our advice to the incoming CEO of the Centre for Public Design. At the time we also reflected briefly on academic J.R. Nethercote’s ‘Recruiting the ‘charisma’ to innovate‘ – 7 February 2012. Following this, the Public Sector Informant (Canberra Times) took us up on our offer to respond in print.

Here is the article ‘In Defence of Design: far more than jargon‘. We hope our thoughts add to the thinking on design and innovation in the public sector.

Thanks to Markus Mannheim, Editor of the Public Sector Informant, for this opportunity.

 

Update: Here’s a link to an online version of the article.