Posts tagged ‘ACT Government’


As a service designer you, funnily enough, design! You make sure there’s an intent, you understand the needs of your sponsor, stakeholders, users, you confirm your parameters and constraints and you use prototyping, iteration and testing to make your very best guess at what will work. You document it all in a compelling evidence-based story called a Design Specification and you hope you’ve done something to instill a design mindset in the multi-disciplinary team you collaborated with. And then usually (however increasingly not for us but more on that later), you leave the business to it to do the work of implementing the solutions.

For our DesignInSchools project with Macquarie Primary School – taking a group of 10 and 11 year-olds through a formal design process on a real problem – we didn’t really just leave the business to it because implementation and then evaluation are critical subsequent steps to design actually making the difference you intended.

Principal Wendy Cave, as sponsor, champion, point-of-pain-sufferer and driver (literally and metaphorically) would keep us in the loop of all the conversations and negotiations she was having with Police, Road representatives, Education Directorates, all the while being driven herself by the team of students in the IMM (Implementation Managers Macquarie).

And this week we were so proud to rejoin our colleagues, team-mates and friends at Macquarie Primary School to launch the implemented design that our team of Year 10-11 students and their teacher Faith Bentley developed.

All of the elements of the design have been implemented, and in a couple of cases, beneficially extended:

  • Solution 1: Representation and Reality – A map showing functional zones, layout and peak/off-peak usage guidance has been developed and made available electronically to all users.
  • Solution 2: Sign Zones – Road markings have been updated, zones clarified, and layout adjusted to aid functionality of all users (i.e parents/carers, students, staff, walkers, drop-off/pick-up users, visitors). Accompanying signs are mix of instructional messages and friendly-toned guidance.
  • Solution 3: VIPs (Very Important Presence) – the physical presence of people in the car park at peak times on a volunteer basis is now fully rostered. The School calls them ‘Vesties’ and “they are invested in creating a positive car park user experience”.
  • Solution 4: Speedbreaker – a concrete speedhump has been installed at the entrance to focus the drivers attention as early as possible on the mixed use environment they are moving into.
  • Solution 5: The Great Divide – a designated ‘safety zone’ that is enacted by use of cones and Vesties at the peak 15 mins in the morning and afternoon. The divide effectively splits the road in half and ‘forces’ drop-off/pick-up behaviour (not park and stay in a drop-off zone). The impact on the flow in peak times is remarkable.


With anecdotal reports of “a completely different experience for all now” in the carpark this project – this experience – has been outstanding.


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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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Back in November we announced that we’d been chosen out of 11 ‘innovation’ teams to be a finalist in the Digital Canberra Challenge.

This week the competition ended with both finalists (ourselves and another local group of innovators DigiACTive) presenting their digital proof of concept to a judging panel and the winner being announced at an awards event / trade show.

We’ll get the bad news out of the way first. We didn’t win.

But that’s okay, because there is, as it turns out, lots of good news!

Bringing Service Design to new audiences

As we mentioned in our previous post on the Challenge we were really pleased to attack a digital product competition from a service design perspective. During the challenge we found that at all levels of interaction – with collaborators, clients, users, challenge judges and politicians – we were able to describe the benefits of a service design approach and the difference it can make to achieving both user and business outcomes.

Those who know us, know we are not evangelists for design. We rely on quality outcomes and the insights gathered and success for our clients. The opportunity to even use the language of service design with the Treasurer and Deputy Chief Minister, the nation’s largest ICT research group in NICTA and the Directorate we worked with on the challenge was a real buzz.

At the very least, we now know that our friends and collaborators in the Road User Services unit, when presented with complex business challenges, have the means to think about their business as a service and think about designing that service from the outside-in. That’s pleasing.

Building a killer product team and a killer product

The challenge gave us the space to set up a dream design team. Because of the digital focus, we looked to the local and global design community to pick out people that we thought would help us build a great product – it just so happened these were people we had wanted to work with for some time!

We contacted local designer-at-large David More to see if he’d be interested in brushing off his expert interaction design techniques; James Peek, who we’ve worked with in the past, stepped up as digital lead/developer and we reached across the Tasman to Empathy in Wellington to bring a broader ‘capital-city’ eye to the project.

The outcome was fantastic from a work and result point of view. Empathy gave us a perspective around the experience of booking a licence test that we hadn’t necessarily identified here in Canberra where the system is culturally and systemically quite different. David took the research findings and insights we had developed to design an interface and multiple product and service storyboards that really translated the IP into a functional and useable product. The design up-front meant James built in a relatively short space of time a functioning proof of concept that took all of our knowledge and delivered our multi-device platform, user-focused front-facing, back-end intergratable digital solution.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 1.30.32 PMWe are really proud of the product and hope to commercialise it – not just with our ACT Government partners, but more broadly in the market.

More importantly though, we are really happy that we got to build and work with an expert collaborative design team.

Creating a new body of knowledge for local government

While the product was killer, one of our key aims within the necessary constraints of the competition was to ensure we left our government team members with much more than just a tech proof of concept. We treated the Challenge like any normal paid job, moving through our normal service design stages, we created a wealth of IP around the concept of online booking and payment. The insights guided the product development, but also were wrapped up in a full design specification that not only outlines the product but user typologies, design principles and other key service design outputs.

As we’d done similar research for AGIMO about online government services just a few years ago, we were really fascinated about the difference in user needs identified this time around. Some of the key insights were:

  • Email remains critical as a confirmation device and is expected as part of any digital service.
  • Eligibility and other complex concepts must be masked by the digital service.
  • Digital-first is a service, but it must remain part of a multi-channel approach for users.

Along with the insights, we were able to leave the RUS team with some guiding principles to take into their future projects as part of the full design spec:

  • The digital product and service is designed to enable users to successfully achieve THEIR outcome.
  • There must be reduced EFFORT to complete a task online.
  • The use of the digital channel should be REWARDED.
  • All common digital channels must be CONSISTENT across government.

If you’d like to see copy of the final Proof of Concept and Case Study just get in touch, we are happy to share what was a public project.

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Today we were extremely happy to be part of a presentation to local ACT Minister for Housing Shane Rattenbury MLA by the National Council of Women ACT, of a report on NCWA Older Women and Homelessness Seminar held on 31 October 2014.

The Council approached us in October last year to ask us to help support a seminar they were running on the topic.

The seminar drew on the leading experts from both the research and practitioner fields, as well as community advocates and service providers, to discuss this often hidden and misunderstood issue.

The goal of the Council was to bring to the fore the causes, the present provision of services and solutions for the future for older women in the ACT. The information presented, which ranged from personal accounts of women becoming at risk of homelessness as they aged to more general reflections on homelessness as an issue, highlighted some key themes for policy makers and practitioners in the field as well.


The common situations which escalate to homelessness for older women include:

  • Relationship breakdown – domestic abuse, a women’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the family financial situation, often compounded by belittling and/or controlling partners.
  • Unsuitable housing situation – Partners refusing to move out. having nowhere to go, or lack of knowing of where to go, the challenge of proving that a women is separated but living under one roof with their ex, couch surfing – where the women has temporary accommodation, but can, in some cases lead to survival sex where the women may exchange sex for a (insecure) roof over her head, stuck in a waiting list, or in a refuge (if one can get in).
  • Health Situation – often escalated by the insecure housing situation, particularly impacting existing mental health issues.
  • Employment Situation – loss of employment, low income or part-time work.
  • Poverty – lacking the resources to own your own home or afford rental accommodation.
  • Women new to the country with little support, or English as a second language.

Present service provision

The services currently available to older women (both homeless and at risk) sit within an overall homelessness service network:

  • The values that underpin service delivery for the homeless and those at risk of being homeless are based on safety, social justice and the right to have somewhere safe to live.
  • Though there is a range of services available from a range of providers, the sector is good at working in a coordinated way.
  • The waiting list for public housing continues to grow.
  • There is still no overall view of the true cost of homelessness to our society.
  • Older women should have a right to feel safe in their movements and housing, and we need to bring up our young people to feel that too.
  • The definition of assets and income (including superannuation) can make access to services difficult for some older women. Even before emergency services are required, CALD women are subjected to discrimination in the private rental market.
  • The question of culturally appropriate housing must be taken into account when planning solutions.
  • Domestic violence was our lens into homelessness, but this preconception needs to broaden to issues such as housing affordability, changing housing requirements and a lack of women-focused service models reflecting inequities in employment and earning capacity.

Possible Solutions

The solutions put forward can be as simple as “building more houses” or as complicated as restructuring the investment portfolios of major industry superannuation funds, but all presenters were unanimous in the view that the response to the emerging potential “tsunami of older women and homelessness” must be addressed now:

  • Community housing is being pursued as a critical model in the Canberra market – the ACT is relatively poor in terms of availability of this solution.
  • The move into housing provider for traditional community organisations can be difficult as the range of factors involved in determining what “affordable housing” is are complex.
  • Accessing the private rental market is difficult in Canberra not only because of cost, but transport, home modifications and the willingness to see elderly women as legitimate tenants.
  • Co-gender accommodation can work well as a solution for elderly women, solutions do not need to be exclusively female.
  • “Marketing” elderly single people as tenants of choice is working with some real estate agents.
  • That the simple solution of building more houses, though complicated, would help.
  • That systemic inequity (lack of assets, financial insecurity, inequitable pay and super) will be the emerging triggers for homelessness in the future and must be addressed.
  • That there are new and evolving solutions and models appearing all of the time and though many of these take time to launch, they should be explored.
  • The phases of potentially homeless older women (emergency homeless, at risk due to being aged now, and the young with low financial literacy or independence) must be acknowledged in order to understand the sheer size of the potential problem.
  • That there are models that should be explored outside of the focus on emergency care – such as utilising superannuation savings to invest in affordable housing.

As service designers we recognise that the kind of situation emerging with older women is complex. Social, cultural and economic tradition and pressures mean accessing and delivering services for this group requires significant re-thinking of the homelessness model.

From our perspective (and the Council)  it was clear that further work must be undertaken in at least three areas:

  • Understanding the older women and homelessness user groups as they stand now.
  • Exploring more agile traditional housing solutions in innovative ways.
  • Addressing systemic people capability issues.

Those are the themes we presented to the Minister today and we are excited about the response and recognition that the profile of this important issue has been raised.

Working with the Council was a great experience, as was hearing from the experts in the field. We’ll be keeping our eye on the issue into the future.

The report (a record of proceedings on the day) will also be available in electronic form from the National Council of Women ACT.


The day itself was a success due to the organisations represented and we thank the following groups and people for giving up their time and providing such excellent information on the issue:

  • Shane Rattenbury MLA, Minister for Housing
  • Helen Dalley-Fisher, Equality Rights Alliance
  • Marcia Williams, Women’s Centre for Health Matters
  • Carol Benda, Women’s Legal Centre
  • Sue Sheridan, First Point
  • Chris Redmond, Woden Community Service
  • Chin Wong, Canberra Multicultural Community Forum
  • Alice Tibbits, ACT Housing
  • Susan Helyar, ACTCOSS
  • Terri Stiller, Argyle Community Housing
  • Heather Douglas, Abbeyfield
  • Leigh Watson, Shelter ACT
  • Frances Crimmins, YWCA Canberra

And of course, thanks  the organising committee of the National Council of Women ACT.

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Here at DMA we are active participants in social media, both at a professional and personal level. So when ACT Sport and Recreation Services, part of the ACT Government Economic Development Directorate, thought local sporting organisations should be more strategic about their use of social media they came to us to help.

Justin jumped at the chance, drawing on both his history as a strategic communications and issues management practitioner and his love of (current obsession with) social media to develop a sport specific curriculum.

The result – three workshops ranging from a basic introduction to social media through to an interactive session to be delivered in collaboration with one of our partners – Sean Callanan from SportsGeekHQ.

A technology fail during the second workshop meant we had to improvise – who said no-one uses the Yellow Pages anymore!

The second workshop had over 35 people from all kinds of sports in the ACT. Great turn out, great participation! We are really looking forward to the final workshop in late November.

Take a look at the slides we put together, we’ve made them available on SlideShare.

Sport and Rec Social Media Workshop 2

View more presentations.

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