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.
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.
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.