Service Design in Government Conference 2017

We had the pleasure to present the work we are doing in Greece, trying to promote and apply service design in the public sector. Here is a summary of what we learned during the conference.

This is the 4th year of the conference and things are getting real for some countries...

UK, Denmark, Finland and others have already experienced the benefits of using a design-led approach in Government and public sector. The UK Government has already hired 3.300 (service, graphic, content, interaction) designers while Denmark has created the MindLab, a cross-governmental innovation unit using design thinking to address the needs of citizens.
But this is just the beginning. The real challenge now is to manage to sustain the design capacity within organizations and gradually scale it while overcoming the various barriers that keep appearing.

...  For others they are just starting!


We presented a case study and talked about the barriers of introducing and applying service design in an amateur market during a period of crisis and how can we enhance collaboration between public organizations and designers. 
But we were not alone in this! Spain, Trinidad & Tobago and many other countries are still struggling to apply service design in the public sector. The differences between us and UK etc. may seem big, but in reality we all face the same problems. And this is good because it means that we can learn from each other. 

A perpetual beta mode

One thing was clear this year. "There will never be the done!" as Louise Downe wisely said in her opening talk. This means that "transformation" (of services, organizations) is not a one-off thing! Sounds scary but it's true. And design is a great methodology that can help organizations embrace change, find ways to learn from mistakes and manage to quickly embed new new needs and challenges in the system.


Service design is organizational design

Transforming services means transforming organizations and the way people interact with them. We need to take into consideration politics, organizational culture, people and how they will experience change when (re)designing public services. This is important to understand both designers and public institutions. We have to think both the service and the system (organization) if we want to achieve any kind of impact and create services that can actually be useful to both citizens and public servants. This makes service design for government hard but also magical in a way!

A slide from our  presentation

A slide from our presentation


Digital transformation is just ... transformation

We should stop considering digitization as a panacea. But we should also stop avoiding digitization of services due to accessibility reasons. It's time to come into piece with that and move forward. Service design is all about putting people first and starting from their needs. It is easy to forget the person when going from physical to digital. Data is important, helping us built the right things and make right decisions. However, it is not just about numbers. Behind each number there is always a person with a story. Try to understand people's stories. It's those stories that give meaning to data and why your service must exist.


(Service) Design is all about doing ... So let's do it!

We don't need another service design toolkit as Esko Reinikainen boldly said during his keynote speech! Let's focus on doing service design instead of just talking about it and trying to convince people and institutions about its value.  Let's focus on creating real impact! But this is not that easy. We know from our experience that it requires great courage and leadership skills from public managers. And as designers we should be able to support you in this leap of faith and create an environment where you will feel safe. After all this is why we work in a collaborative way with both clients and end-users.

Being open means moving forward, quicker and together

Being open is not just using open software or providing access to data. Being open is about sharing what you've done and most importantly how you did it. If we want service design to make a difference we have to share more about how all these tools and methods are applied in practice. This is what matters. Sharing is also about accepting; accepting that you are not perfect, that you did mistakes. But this is important for everyone to know otherwise we will all keep doing the same mistakes and re-inventing the wheel.  But be careful, there is no "one its all solution". Let's learn and be inspired from others and then redesign our own services according to local needs. As Mike Press from Open Change says "Think Global, Act Local!"

It's all about building capacity

Real openness cannot exist while withholding service design knowledge and methods from those people that really need it; the policy makers, the managers, the front-line staff. We have a moral obligation as designers. To open our design toolkit, make it accessible to everyone and try to create internal design capacity in organizations. We are all working after all for something bigger. There is no time for being selfish here. We need to work towards creating platforms for people to collaborate effectively. We need to "put our professional tools in the hands of people".

Here's to a great future!


Curious to see what happened during the conference? Follow #SDinGov on Twitter

Our presentation at #SDinGov

(Service) Design is all about doing ... So let's do it, in the open, without being afraid of failure and by putting people first! 

Interested in using service design to transform you organization?