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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
It 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,
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:
Apply design consciously.
Recognise that the public sector is in the service business.
Ensure the public sector has the capacity for design.
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.
The themes for GovCamp were related to innovation and capability in the Public Sector, and we took the opportunity to present a case study on our work with the ATO in the area of service design and complex ICT delivery.
Now, thanks to a tenth birthday present from our mates at Newcast, the video of the presentation is live!
Newcast are experts at creating engaging, cost-effective video campaigns to suit any business and any budget and we couldn’t have been happier when they told us they were happy to cut together our work.
As we highlighted in our original post, the case study has lots of important outcomes for turning ICT ‘shops’ into service-focused groups.
We’re proud of our partnership with the ATO and the ongoing benefits they are receiving from the work and hope you enjoy the video.
The GovCamp themes for this year were inspiring innovation, empowering people and liberating capability.
Considering our presentation at Service Design 2012 had contained a slide titled “Innovation Schminnovation” we were a bit worried, but then we took a look at what we would present a case study on and it made perfect sense.
For the past 18 month we’ve been working in partnership with a client – the Australian Taxation Office – on building a program of service design work. And the sponsor of that work, Assistant Commissioner Craig Fox, was keen to discuss the work in the context of it being an innovative approach to his business – complex ICT Infrastructure delivery.
So we interviewed Craig and “Innovation – Two Perspectives” was developed. The two perspectives are ours as service designers and his as a leader in the public sector.
The great thing about this case study is that it’s not in a particularly ‘sexy’ domain for service design. ICT Infrastructure isn’t nurses and midwives, it isn’t vulnerable kids (all areas in which we work), but it’s exactly the kind of deep supporting capability that makes services work – and therefore is completely appropriate as a focus for service design.
Collaborating to innovate in complex ICT
To give some context for the work, in 2009 a significant organisational shift occurred with an outsourced multi-vendor environment introduced to deliver the different and increasingly complex Infrastructure platforms and services.
‘Infrastructure’ are the foundation services such as networks, centralised computing hardware, end-user technologies, phones and other devices. These are the very things taxpayers, businesses, intermediaries, and the staff who support them, use to understand, comply, and effectively access service delivery.
This multi-vendor infrastructure environment is managed by ATO Service Operations (SO). They came to us seeking a new way to approach infrastructure delivery to ensure it consciously supported the business of the ATO – not just and old ICT view of products from vendors.
The subsequent set of rolling 10 week design projects has seen us collaboratively shape this huge and important business. We couldn’t be happier with the collaboration and the outcomes.
On the day our presentation featured video from Craig’s interview in order to give his full perspective.