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Reflections on design in the Scottish Government


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Presentation given at the Service Design in Government conference in London on 20 March 2015.

Over the past couple of years, a number of teams across the Scottish Government have used a design approach in various areas of policy development and service delivery. We wanted to evaluate how design has contributed to this ‘Scottish Approach’ to government. Are there aspects of design that compliment and challenge our current approach? Where does design differ from the improvement methodology? We also wanted to reflect on the conditions needed for a successful design project.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Reflections on design in the Scottish Government

  1. 1. Reflections on design in the Scottish Government
  2. 2. Data inputterer at Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department Various posts in Department for Work and Pensions: front line service, IT support and management, information security, risk management PGDip Information and Library Studies MA(Hons) History and Economic History Various IT qualifications Website manager at UK Trade and Investment Knowledge Management Officer with the Scottish Centre for Regeneration Librarian in the Scottish Government Library Service
  3. 3. The Scottish Government
  4. 4. The Scottish Government
  5. 5. Business Strategy imperative…
  6. 6. What does a creative organisation look like? Curious for ideas Motivated people Open channels of communicationStrategic leadership Fresh insights emerge in new places, informed by a deep understanding of the issues, at a human level. Leaders and managers at all levels welcome new ideas and support their development. Shared understanding of goals, with clear direction and discretion across hierarchies to innovate in working towards them. Leaders regularly remove barriers. Broad networks, with simple forms of communication and a culture of consulting colleagues, sharing work and ideas. Work is challenging and fulfilling. Corporate policies support flexible operation. We celebrate and reward creative work – and support the development of creative skills. Worthwhile public sector work 3 4 1 2
  7. 7. What is it that we do? > Fostering a belief that we are creative and that this has a real part to play in our work. > Exploring, testing out and implementing widely new ways of working that help us achieve our desired outcomes.
  8. 8. Discover – defining the question How can we radically increase the number of people in Scotland who are physically active?
  9. 9. Getting active project – the story so far Why get involved? •Need for radical rethink •Reduced public purse •Public expect better in terms of answers What did it entail? •Going back to the drawing board •Seeing through lots of pairs of eyes •From the users point of view – making it meaningful
  10. 10. The Scottish Government ‘Teenagers – need to be on-trend, current. Kids don’t like getting sweaty.’ ‘Habits are powerful - it's not easy for everyone. How to get into habits of making healthy choices within constraints people live in.’ ‘Mountain biking is big here – tracks everywhere. Community want to raise money to create tracks here….it’s best when the kids do it themselves, they build their own tracks in the woods, good to leave it as a guerrilla activity!’ #normal #motivation #affirming experience #fun
  11. 11. The potential of a design approach? • Genuine engagement, an assets/people based co- production approach. • Empathic approach to gathering information; understanding how people behave, not just what they say; not just user but relationship focussed. • Emphasis on the lived experience, rather than how things ought to be.
  12. 12. The potential of a design approach? • Probing the question; reframing. Ensures the team considers and dissects the problem before thinking about solutions. • Lots of ideas which are tested, then refined. Then prototyped and further refined. By doing this small scale we manage the risks. • Solutions that have integrity and ownership from the people who are affected.
  13. 13. Research project summer 2014 • What were the experiences of SG staff in applying design thinking? • In what ways did external partners engage with SG in delivering design-led projects? • What were the benefits and challenges of using the design thinking approach within SG? • In what ways could SG staff apply design thinking to future projects?
  14. 14. Methodology •Qualitative: semi-structured interviews. •Process of ‘snowball sampling’: 21 interviews (17 SG staff, 4 design professionals) across different sites. •Observed and participated in two ‘in- house’ design thinking workshops. •Attended a design policy workshop organised by Design Wales and PDR, the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research. Limitations •Short timeframe. •Availability of potential research participants. •‘Self-exclusion’ by some potential participants through definitional misunderstanding.
  15. 15. Design dichotomies “The fact you’re calling it something like ‘design’ is off- putting for some people. It’s also appealing too.” “Language is massively important and irrelevant.” “Design is complex but simple, things that appear to be simple on the surface are in fact deeply complex when you begin to look at them closely.” We had senior management support We didn’t have management support It’s a new and disruptive way of doing things It’s just putting new spin on what we already do It’s a mindset It’s a set of tools/a methodology
  16. 16. “I think there’s a tension in trying to apply a scientific methodology and approach to what we do, the so called ‘evidence- based’ policymaking and having a design based approach…[] If we have a Chief Scientific Officer, why not have a Chief Design Officer? If design is so fundamental to the way that we do things. Our structures and capacity just don’t fit the rhetoric.” Other findings “We could do better at creating spaces for incubation… I think we are all really busy and we need space to consistently innovate and create new and productive spaces for people to think strategically.” “The main challenge has been the ability to dedicate time.”“People aren’t accustomed to [design] being around then…this doesn’t look like proper work. I think we have a particular definition of what work looks like, ie sitting at your desk.”
  17. 17. “We need to have examples from across the government so people can see it and say I can do that.” Other findings “You can’t thrust this upon anyone, you’ve just got to do it, again and again, not talk about it, just do it.” “You can’t run design thinking from the centre because you don’t own the issues. You need an environment for authorising change.” “You meet people with problems on the ground and this is your job trying to make things better. It’s their stories that stay with you and there’s value in that for everyone.” “It’s accessible, visual work, which is easier to interpret than the likes of a graph.” “[The quality of the material] did make a difference in the way that participants responded.”
  18. 18. Using a design approach Useful when: •No obvious answers •Stuck! •There is space to try a new approach •Want to challenge the status quo Challenges are: •Giving permission, committing resources to a whole process without knowing what the end result will be •Reactive vs planned work – where do our resources go? •What do we see as risk and when do we take it?
  19. 19. Learner Journey
  20. 20. So. What now?
  21. 21. Upcoming projects > Children and young people’s participation in policy making > Staff moves process improvement > European statistical boundaries engagement and consultation > Use of Scottish Government open data – engagement > EU planning directive > Culture mapping
  22. 22. The Scottish Approach to Government
  23. 23. Scottish Approach to Government
  24. 24. Design in the Scottish Approach