In January we launched a new education programme to help public service professionals gain design skills. 

The programme is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with the aim of helping the public sector find practical, effective and quick solutions to everyday challenges.

With demand on local authorities rising and budgets falling, public service leaders are looking for new ways of working. This programme is unique because it offers a foundation in practical approaches to solving public sector challenges.

Why the programme is unique  

The AHRC have funded three intensive cohorts over a 15 month period. Each cohort will give 16 - 18 public sector participants from across the UK a grounding in design methods. The participants will be selected according to their region and common issues, allowing peers from different councils to work together and address a shared challenge.

Participants will be introduced to a pipeline of activity where they will be able to access ongoing support at the end of the cohort.

How will participants benefit?

This new programme offers the opportunity to: 

  • Explore common challenges and gain insights into how to scope, shape and brief design projects
  • Develop new leadership capabilities by applying new skills directly to live projects

This programme was very challenging - in a good way. It really helped us rethink our project and totally redefine it.

Local Authority delegate from Cohort 1

The first of the three cohorts took place between February and June 2014. Six organisations were selected to take part on the programme with a total of 16 delegates.

The organisations focused on the following themes:

  • East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group – How do we discover, generate and optimise insight to influence our commissioning cycle?
  • Lancashire Council – Using design thinking to focus on customer insights.
  • Stockport Council – How can we better support perpetrators of domestic abuse to help them change their behaviour?
  • Salford Council – Ensuring that any door is the right door for service users
  • Liverpool – Designing steps to positive parenting with parents
  • Tameside – Embedding design thinking in their 30m transformation programme

Delegates have reported very positively on the impact of the programme:

“The programme has been excellent and I have learned so much about design and the importance of properly defining your issue from the outset through getting user insights.”

“It has really refreshed my thinking and helped me refocus on utilising person centred approaches and insight into overall design approaches. It has helped sharpen the key question/system change that is needed. It was clear we trip so quickly into solution mode with consultations on options rather than really engaging with people about their needs.”

The first cohort commenced in July 2014 in Humberside and Yorkshire, and the second took place in Scotland in Autumn 2014.   The third cohort will commence in South East England (excluding London) in January 2015.

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