Designers as probers by aajwanthi (1)
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Designers as probers by aajwanthi (1)

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In the context of service design, especially when working with public services, the new role of a designer goes much beyond delivering design solutions. This paper argues that designers, in this ...

In the context of service design, especially when working with public services, the new role of a designer goes much beyond delivering design solutions. This paper argues that designers, in this context, takes on an additional role of a ‘prober’, enabling the organisation to build their own capacity through a self-reflective process. Based on literature review, discussion of a service design project done in collaboration with the City of Helsinki Education Department and interviews with the service providers after the participatory design phase, the paper tries to highlight this constant operation of self-reflection and capacity building that is facilitated throughout the design process. The paper ends with a brief discussion on how a continuous design dialogue where the stakeholders are involved by way of various methods such as interviews, role-play, brainstorming etc., will aid in effective reflection of their existing practices, thus encouraging thought on how to improve them for the future

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Designers as probers by aajwanthi (1) Designers as probers by aajwanthi (1) Document Transcript

  • DESIGNERS AS PROBERS: ENABLING SELF REFLECTIVE, CAPACITY BUILDING WITHIN ORGANISATIONS WHILE DESIGNING FOR SERVICES. AAJWANTHI BARADWAJ AALTO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF ARTS, DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE AAJWANTHI@GMAIL.COM ABSTRACT In the context of service design, especially when working with public services, the new role of a designer goes much beyond delivering design solutions. This paper argues that designers, in this context, takes on an additional role of a ‘prober’, enabling the organisation to build their own capacity through a self-reflective process. Based on literature review, discussion of a service design project done in collaboration with the City of Helsinki Education Department and interviews with the service providers after the participatory design phase, the paper tries to highlight this constant operation of self-reflection and capacity building that is facilitated throughout the design process. The paper ends with a brief discussion on how a continuous design dialogue where the stakeholders are involved by way of various methods such as interviews, role-play, brainstorming etc., will aid in effective reflection of their existing practices, thus encouraging thought on how to improve them for the future. INTRODUCTION In the design world, more specifically service design or design for a complex system involving multiple stakeholders, the role of a designer is being constantly modified. It can be stated that a designer is no longer someone who only does research and delivers design solutions. Within this premise, this paper tries to highlight that a designer’s new role includes one of a prober, one who is involved in the process, while making sure that the stakeholders immerse themselves into it at the same time. The probers use appropriate methods or tools to question, clarify and identify design directions. This continuous design dialogue enables self-reflection within the stakeholders, thus creating space for organizational capacity building and change. This process of unravelling the problem together by asking the right questions and using the right methods, and how this leads to self-reflection within both involved parties is why a distinction between a facilitator and a prober has been proposed, even though both these roles have a lot in common. A prober is proposed to be someone who digs deep and gets the participants thinking while trying to understand the situation him/herself, thus adding value to the project as well as the organizations involved. Within a service design process, three types of benefits have been identified: for the service design project itself, for the users of this service and finally, the organizations that are involved in the process (Steen et al 2011), and following this participatory, continuous design dialogue seems to be addressing all the three identified categories. Now that this role of a designer has been put forward, it is important to acknowledge that the premise of service design is one that allows for such interaction and usage of tools and methods, thus playing a big part in enabling reflection and capacity building in the participants. A service design process always involves multiple actors Designing for Services 2013, Aalto University | http://designresearch.aalto.fi/courses/ds13/ 1
  • and collaborative design processes in which the researchers-designers meet the users, partners and other stakeholders to grain insights, create opportunities or solutions. (Soini 2006) Design facilitation is an important and emerging role for designers. “Increasingly, designers are working in public sector organizations, which are under pressure to respond to both community and stakeholder needs as well as deliver on government policy.” (Body et al 2008). In situations such as these, it is very essential for the participants from organiszations, to reflect upon their roles and tasks (both individually and as a group) so that they can deliver valuable services to their users while also being able to answer any questions that the higher level authorities might have. OBJECTIVES, TOOLS AND METHODS When a prober enters a project workshop, the main tasks he/she has are to understand what the system is all about, how it works and identify opportunities for design interventions. When designing for public services, there are often multiple stakeholders involved and the roles of the various players and aims or goals of the system are often difficult to pinpoint so easily. This makes the prober’s task more challenging and possibly enjoyable. The probers then converse with the participants, asking them questions that make them reflect throughout the duration of the dialogue. They use tools such as stakeholder mapping, service mapping, role-playing, persona building, observing and codesigning to aid their task. They “say”, “do” and “make” as stated by (Sanders 2002) in (Steen et al 2011), where make is referring to co-design activities, to create knowledge and understanding of a system, both for themselves as well as the participants. Throughout the process the participants are asked how and why questions or made to complete tasks that nudge them to think deeply and clarify fuzzy areas for themselves. CASE STUDY: OPEN VOCATION SCHOOL This project with the Open Vocational School (OVS) was done as part of the ‘Designing for Services’ course at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, in collaboration with the City of Helsinki Education Department. The OVS in Helsinki is part of the City of Helsinki’s actions to meet the demands of the Youth Guarantee Programme. The Youth Guarantee program was initiated in January 2013 and aims to offer everyone under the age of 25, as well as recent graduates under the age of 30 an employment, a study place, a place in the on-the-job-training or in rehabilitation within three months after one is unemployed. The OVS thus aims to create personalized education paths leading to a profession according to every youth’s need. Our task as a group of five service designers was to help the OVS, and therefore City of Helsinki, identify touch-points in 2 their service that could be improved and provide some solutions on how that could be done. The OVS was a fairly new system that rested within the larger Helsinki Educational System and therefore, it was only understood that there were many actors with multiple roles involved within this. Being a new organisation, they were also trying to set foot into the domain and clarify for themselves, what their aims were, what their vision was and how they should go about offering their service so that it benefits the youth in the best way possible. When the brief was given to our team, we were as clueless as one could be. Our first task was to schedule a meeting with the project manager of the OVS along with the two counsellors who were part of the team so that we could understand how the OVS functioned and how we could help them in improving their services. This proved to be a very interesting meeting for us and gave us some insights about the initial expectations and some assumptions around a designer’s skill sets. We were greeted by smiling faces of the staff as we entered the huge empty hall where the classes for the OVS would be eventually set up. “So you all are here to help us design the interiors of this space! We have a huge space and some old furniture and we are still trying to work around budget constraints”, the project manager said. Ironically, none of us were actually trained interior designers and that was not what we were there to do. We immediately realised that there is a lot of communication and knowledge sharing that needed to occur, both ways. We then told them that we were service designers, but did not really explain in detail what we were there to do, as we hadn’t established the touch-points for interventions ourselves. We then began to work with them using tools such as building personas, organisation mapping and mapping out the service blueprint to trigger them to start talking about their partners and associated organizations, how each one is linked to the OVS, how do they communicate amongst each other and so on. The staff felt that these mapping activities probed them to think about their communication channels. They also mentioned that the blueprint activity helped them make a list of things that they would like to add to their road map. “We had never thought of this!” said Hanna, adding a card that said ‘presentation regarding organisation’s mission and vision’ to the service blueprint. “This would be a good artefact to have in order to convince the teachers of the vocational school that we are only trying to help them. At the moment, they feel like we are adding to their work.” On seeing some of the other blueprint card suggestions they exclaimed, “We need all of this! A website, course catalogue, some presentations about our services. How come we didn’t think of this? Yes! We must add it to our long term plan.” We continued to interact with the OVS staff in various workshop settings. Each time there was new Designing for Services 2013, Aalto University | http://designresearch.aalto.fi/courses/ds13/
  • information revealed or new insights that we, as designers could work with. During the process, we realised that the various tools that we used such as mapping and role-play enabled self-reflection within the OVS staff and this triggered new thoughts, ideas and directions each time we met. designers to unravel the system or identify any touchpoints to work with. At the end of the project, in an interview, Hanna said, “I am glad that you guys did this. Initially we thought you were going to design the interiors, but now I think you were asking us the right questions we needed to have answers to, before we move on to setting up the school or anything else.” Figure 2: The OVS staff discussing and clarifying details amongst each other, during a persona building activity Figure 1: The OVS staff populating the organisation map while we ask them questions, during the second workshop “The collective brainstorming made us think about and clarify our aim and vision, which is very important at the moment.” said Sanna, the project manager. Similarly, without the designers, the participants might not have had a new perspective to their activities or service. There would have been design solutions that would have been proposed at the end of the project, but following a process like this goes back to benefiting all the three identified parties that were identified (Steen et al 2011). This process brought about self-reflective capacity building within the organisation that entailed the stakeholders understanding their roles, defining their vision and examining existing practices while planning their future roadmap. This process also provided new information, creating new perspectives while sowing seeds for good design solutions as well. We also conducted workshops with the students from the Vocational School (VS). It is from here that students who are on the verge of dropping out or have already dropped out or ones who want change their line of study, are sent to the OVS for help or support. During the workshop with the students, we tried to engage them in a dialogue around their teachers (which was an identified problem) as well as curriculum and other issues around school and studies. The students actively mapped out their views and while leaving, informed the staff that they really enjoyed the workshop as they felt that their voices were not heard and opinions not valued otherwise. They were happy that they were being heard. The rich discussions around issues in school made some of them also talk about their personal thought process as they mapped out their future goals and aspirations. ANALYSIS Literature around service design clearly states the importance of using participatory design tools as well as the role of a designer as a facilitator, but this project highlighted the symbiotic relationship between the designer and the stakeholders, the mutual enabling of knowledge sharing as well as capacity building. Without the participants, it would have been very difficult for the CURRENT STUDENT JOURNEY Vamos/Other Organizations OPEN VOCATIONAL SCHOOL Courses Vocational School Vocational School Drop out students Counselor Workshops Students changing the discipline Other Organizations (army/mental health services) Figure 3: A student journey map that was drawn from the insights obtained at the various workshops with the OVS staff CONCLUSION As seen in the above case, the importance of a constant design dialogue with the involved stakeholders needs to be emphasised. Using various tools that aid the dialogue, designers can probe and provide nudges that will help in effective reflection by the stakeholders, creating good insights for the project itself, while enabling capacity development within their organizations. This might help them access their current Designing for Services 2013, Aalto University | http://designresearch.aalto.fi/courses/ds13/ 3
  • methods and systems while sowing seeds that will create a more effectively functioning service in the future. Thus, there is a need for more designers to take up this role especially when working with organisational change within service design. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I would like to take this opportunity thank all the OVS staff that collaborated with us during this project. I would also like to thank our tutors Jung-Joo Lee and Zagros Hatami, from the Designing for Services course, because of whom both the project and paper took life and last but not the least, my team members Jan Nikander, Justina Vengraityte, Samuli Raisanen and Theresa Berg, who were always brimming with energy and ideas, making this project take the path that it did. 4 REFERENCES John body, Nina Terry, Lestie Tergas. (2008.) “Design Facilitation as an Emerging Design Skill: A practical approach.” Interpreting Design Thinking Marc Steen, Menno Manscho, Nicole De Koning. (2011). “Benefits of Co-Design in Service Design Projects.” International Journal of Design 5, No. 2 Sanders, E.B.N. (2002). From user-centred to participatory approaches. In J.Frascra (Ed.), Design and the Social Sciences: Making connections. London: Taylor & Francis Soini, Katja. (2006) “Industrial Designers as Facilitators.” Connecting- A conferene on the Multivocality of Design History and Deisng Studies. Helsinki-Tallin. Designing for Services 2013, Aalto University | http://designresearch.aalto.fi/courses/ds13/