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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.