Release date: 30 April 2013
Design Council and other members of SEE (Sharing Experience Europe) today published a new report, Design for Public Good, encouraging the European Union and its member states to adopt design-led innovation to create the next generation of public services and policy that can meet the pressing demands of the future.
The report follows the publication in March of the Design Commission report, Restarting Britain 2, which calls for design thinking to be used to improve UK public services. Design for Public Good now brings this message to the EU, but also extends it to look at the potentially huge gains design methodology can bring to policymaking as well as services.
The report describes the key benefits of design thinking for government as follows:
- Design-led innovation is a joined-up process, with no inefficient handover from analysis to solution to implementation
- Rather than jumping straight to expensive and risky pilots, design process tests iteratively, starting with low-cost, simple models (prototypes) and designing out risk with each new version
- Rather than disjointedly patching together incremental solutions as problems arise, design thinking looks at the entire system to redefine the problem from the ground up
- Design thinking starts by understanding user needs in order to ensure solutions are appropriate, waste is avoided and end users buy into them
- While the factors that cause silo structures in government may be stubborn, design methods offer uniquely effective ways of understanding which teams and departments are relevant to a problem and engaging them in collaborations
In other words, no longer just an add-on, design has evolved into a fully joined-up innovation methodology. Design Council and its partners argue that, with countries around the world adopting this thinking, the European Union cannot afford to be left behind. Furthermore, with a strong track record of pioneering work from several of its member states, it has a chance to lead the field and create a sustainable, thriving public sector even in a time of crisis.
The UK government’s new digital service, gov.uk, this year’s recipient of the Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award, is one of a number of best-practice examples from the UK, Denmark and Finland that make up the report’s case studies. These are structured using a new tool, the Public Sector Design Ladder, which divides projects into three categories:
1. Design for discrete problems – designers are hired for one-off jobs
2. Design as capability – design becomes part of the culture of public sector organisations
3. Design for policy – design is used at the highest levels to help create policy
The argument is that, in order to reach step 3, with its potentially massive efficiency gains, one must go through the previous two steps – which also offer benefits. The report recommends that the European Commission should promote use of the ladder and fund work on developing it. It also urges the European Commission to promote design by embedding it in its own working methods. This should not be a sudden or expensively engineered change but start small, gradually building the evidence base without major risk.
The Rt Hon David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, wrote the report’s foreword, in which he comments:
“Design is a source of competitive advantage and can help organisations transform their performance. That is why design forms an integral part of the UK Government’s plans for innovation and growth.
Design has the potential to meet the pressing needs of the present, but also to help governments achieve wider long-term aims of growth and quality of life for its citizens … With governments around the world beginning to recognise it, it is a capability Europe cannot afford to ignore.”
John Mathers, Chief Executive of the Design Council, commented:
“Governments and society today face a number of challenges in common: the need to connect with the electorate and create conditions for the best possible quality of life at optimum cost. In Design for Public Good, the UK, Denmark and Finland argue that design offers a uniquely effective methodology for squaring the circle – at all levels of government, from service delivery to policy development. We hope this report will act as spring board for innovation across Europe’s public sector”
Notes to editors
1. For further information and interview requests, please contact:
Tim Crowley, Head of Communications, Design Council
07748 906897, firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Design for Public Good is a collaboration between four members of the SEE Platform: Design Council (UK), Danish Design Centre, Design Wales and Aalto University, Finland.
3. SEE, led by Design Wales at Cardiff Metropolitan University, is a network of eleven European partners sharing knowledge and experience on how design can be integrated into regional and national policies to boost innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability and social and economic development. SEE is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG IVC programme.
4. The Design Council champions great design. For us that means design which improves lives and makes things better. As an enterprising charity, our work places design at the heart of creating value by stimulating innovation in business and public services, improving our built environment and tackling complex social issues such as ageing and obesity. We inspire new design thinking, encourage public debate and inform government policy to improve everyday life and help meet tomorrow’s challenges today.