Choosenick. Notes and observations on service design, as well as other interesting things/thinking. By Nick Marsh.

Archive of December 2009

Big public service design ideas I'm big excited about right now

A complete blogging meltdown over the past few months. Hectic at work, and busy elsewhere with a range of plans and initiatives, not least the new site (I know, I know its not done). Anyway, thought I'd throw up a quick post about some of the big ideas that I've been getting big excited about recently, and that are finding their way into proposals and projectsI'm working on, or want to work on! They might seem a bit disjointed as I've copied bits from various email correspondence.

These ideas are generally bigger than 'service design' or design-led strategy for service organisations, but I hope they're exciting for anyone working on bringing design and design thinking to public sector innovation and reform. So, here they are:

Mutualising and atomising the public sector
Philip Blonds thesis, The Ownership State is one of the most interesting big ideas around at the moment. Read the report here.

Essentially he suggesting that any part of the public sector should be allowed to mutualise. I love the simplicity of the idea, but I'm sure there's an enormous sea of complexity to navigate to get there.

My dad has actually been working with some social workers in Kent to help setup employee owned 'social work practices' along the lines of GP practices, and he told me the biggest hurdle they're currently facing is pensions - just one example of the amazingly tangled, interconnectedness of public sector reform.

Treating public funds as social venture capital funds
Lee Bryant at Headshift has a fantastic idea (or at least he's fantastically eloquent at explaining it) to treat public sector IT budgets as venture capital funds - that is that they should expect a (social) return on investment, invest small amounts and scale up when they see success, and invest in entrepreneurs not companies.

This is in marked contrast to how IT budgets are currently spent, which is generally to contract out huge, highly specified projects to an elite group of very large companies. You can watch him explain it better than me here. (scroll down through the videos)

It seems to me that this model could work way beyond IT and would be a great way to conceptualise the role of the shrunken centre in Blond's ownership state model - Ministers and senior civil servants then become investment managers, responsible for nurturing social entrepreneurs by encouraging innovators to come to them in order to apply for funding. They then get rewarded for growing their investment portfolio, and each portfolio (aka ministry) could have a different investment focus (e.g security, health, etc). This would be in marked contrast to current managerial approaches.

Design as the bridge between innovative ideas and action
Engaging users in service design is hard. Blond says in his pamphlet, 'while engaging service users in new ways has long been considered desirable, it has proven extremely difficult to realise in practice'.

As many readers of this blog know, (many readers, hmm…) my work (and interests) focuses on bringing the tools and practices of designers and design organisations into the context of services.

I've found that many of the approaches used by designers to create new products (in particular interactive products) can be abstracted and easily translated into the context of services - examples include; the idea of user centred design and user research; the focus on the user experience of a design for evaluating success; the emphasis on small multi-disciplinary teams; the focus on turning problems into projects and rewarding/recognising people who work on the toughest projects; the focus on 'building to think' by creating prototypes of solutions and experiences and iterating them with users; and the idea of a 'design process' to guide a journey into the unknown - I could go on (and have done many times before!)

Roger Martin at the Rotman School of Management has a good paper of his that sums up the design thinking movement quite nicely (albeit very sales-y).

Hyperlocal media as a service for users and communities
Finally, I'm getting more and more fascinated by the power of hyperlocal media to connect and empower geographic community groups, and not just communities of practice. It seems to me that a good understanding of the role of media as a service to users (not a broadcast tool for organisations) is going to be vital to connecting together the various bits of the ownership state, connecting those bits into communities, and providing the low cost channels for service users to assert their ownership of the new public sector.

My local blog - 'Brockley Central' - is a great resource and hub for local people to raise issues, discuss local projects and initiatives and connect with other people in the community. I love it.

William Perrin is setting up a social enterprise funded by 4iP called 'talk about local' that is trying to connect together policy and people in this area. There's a good overview on his website (second video down)

So, they're the big ideas I'm big excited about, lots of other people are too, and I'm looking forward to 2010 when we can start smashing them together through projects and events! If you have any other big ideas that I should be big excited about, please tweet or put some links in the comments.
December 2nd, 2009 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking, publicservices / Trackback / Comments