Devon County Council was part of our Design in the Public Sector programme in south-west England. As their time on the programme comes to an end, councillors Kevin Gillick, Carl Haggerty and Jo Prince-White reflect on what they’ve achieved and what it means for their organisation in the long term.
Even before the programme began, we knew that transformation was the key to the future of public services. To achieve this it would require the skills of experienced and knowledgeable leaders, staff, and members. Devon, along with every other provider, would need to be more agile and responsive, with access to the methods and tools to affect serious and radical change.
For an organisation experiencing such change, it becomes essential that employees are able to transform along with the service. It is this agility and level of engagement that would help us produce the most effective outcomes and services for the people of Devon. We believe that if we massively increase staff participation in the organisation’s goals through engagement and learning, this will help our employees to create innovative solutions and be inspired to do better things.
The Design in the Public Sector programme gave us another approach to the issues in question. It really highlighted a different way of looking at the challenges and becoming more user-focused. Talking to expert guests and having the Design Council's framework, process and method explained, really brought the whole thing together. The design thinking approach has given us new skills and techniques to test and change our original design challenge, which has evolved throughout the programme.
The three core design principles of being person-centred, working visually and being collaborative and iterative, have resonated well with us all and really helped to move things forward. So much so that these methods have been employed to challenge and improve all sorts of existing activities.
We found the programme packed full of challenges, opportunity, learning and amazing conversations with peers and people from outside the sector, all of whom inspired us. In response, we have shifted our way of working and thinking. We were constantly surprised by how many new ideas can emerge when you let go of previous ideas and refocus your energy.
The programme has resulted in our initiating user insight workshops which will help to inform how our services impact the end-user and how they can be improved. Our projects are still in their infancy and there’s much work to be done. However, with the increased knowledge of design thinking, coupled with a greater interest in ethnographic research, it should mean the learnings we’ve made can be passed on to the rest of the team, and all future teams.
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