Designing Public Services Together

Engine have produced a great video around their project with Kent County Council explaining the establishment of SILK (Social Innovation Lab Kent) – a partnership between Engine and KCC to provide service design knowledge, tools and expertise for all areas of the council. It shows Engine in the studio demonstrating some of the processes and ways of working deployed through the project. On my day out of the studio too!

The video was also posted on the Local Government Channel. Let’s hope we can widen the great work we do in the public sector by getting the attention of some new councils and government bodies…

The project was also nominated for the London Design Museum’s Design of the Year! Though sadly, as with the excellent service design projects that were up for nomination last year (including Velibre, the fantastic pay-as-you-go urban cycling scheme), there isn’t a suitable category for service design, which is inter-disciplinary by its nature, and we have consequently been entered under ‘Communications’.

This all comes at a very important time for service design in the public sector. The growing awareness of the power of user-centred design in improving and developing new services, coupled with the sad reality that as the recession deepens, more and more people will rely on some aspects of the services their councils and the state provide, mean that innovation is fundamental to meeting the demand and the challenges faced.

Recently, the Design Council launched a new capaign; Public Services By Design, underlining the huge task and huge opportunity before us. The linked article covers a great deal of the issues – personalisation of services, inclusive design processes, and in particular the the call for action below stands out:

“We need to be conscious that today’s problems are just not going to be addressed by yesterday’s ideas and yesterday’s solutions…we need a whole new approach to policy over the 10 years.”

By a ‘new approach to policy’, I hope that the intention is to develop a culture of innovation, amongst other things such as sharing best practice. Service design’s real power is not it’s ability to pull from all disciplines of design to create the more tangible elements of a service, but the ability to transform an organisation from the inside out. In order to develop successful, relevant, sustainable services, it’s vital to instill a culture of innovation and encourage the open-ness and willingness to change and test new ideas so that a service is never a finished product, but an evolving, constantly refined solution.