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Design in the Public Sector - Cambridgeshire County Council's insights Part III

Design in the Public Sector - Cambridgeshire County Council's insights Part III

9 February 2016 Written by By Richard Hall IT Applications Architect, LGSS

Design Council’s Design in the Public Sector programme increases the knowledge and use of strategic design skills across local authority public services, exposing teams to new ways of working and enabling them to do something practical to meet their challenges in a relatively short period of time.

Here, Richard Hall, IT Applications Architect] for LGSS, shares his teams experience of the programme and how they found better solutions by revisiting and clarifying their core challenge.  

The Cambridge Union, famous for hosting lively debates, proved to be a fitting setting for the third session (day 60) of the Design in the Public Sector course. Today, we would cross the threshold into idea generation, and to do that we needed to start by stating our challenge clearly, succinctly, and in a manner designed to provoke discussion, insight and ideas.

Defining our core challenge

If you've read Hendrik's and Sue's previous blog posts you'll have picked up that our main challenge involves combating fuel poverty across Cambridgeshire. That is, ensuring that more residents are able to afford to keep their homes adequately heated at a reasonable cost compared to their income. One way that we hope to achieve this is by making the available data more useful and practical for those who need it. We all really care about promoting the value and role of data as a decision-making aid - to the extent that this has now becomes embedded within the culture of our public services - and we really believe this is the method through which we can achieve our goals.

I spectacularly failed to express this clearly when we presented to the group. At the end of a slightly improvised summary of where we had got to since the start of the course, one of our guest speakers raised their hand and asked us to explain exactly "what the problem is that [we] are trying to address”. Eek. Point taken. 

How might we succeed

Day 60 came to the rescue with its first activity which involved using 'How might we' syntax to clearly and succinctly distil our challenge in a series of problem statements. The form that the statement should take is:

How might we [verb] [object] [context]

For our challenge this became:

  • How might we increase the use of data in decision making and targeting of resources?
  • How might we increase people’s understanding of the role data can play in improving the lot of the most vulnerable?
  • How might we maximise the use of data to better target the distribution of warm home packs?
  • How might we increase the use of data to target solid wall insulation grants?

We then applied a 'This matters because' clause for additional context.

This matters because:

  • demand on services is increasing
  • resources are limited
  • data exists which may contain valuable insight.

The clouds part 

Even after this first attempt, we immediately felt like we were explaining ourselves more clearly. This was proved later in the day when we received some truly insightful ideas, from the other teams in our cohort, in response to our problem statements.  The other groups were invariably making use of data in addressing their own challenges and had a stack of relevant stories of how data was being used effectively.

We emerged from the day feeling buoyant and were able to explain ourselves more clearly and with some real concrete ideas to follow up.

Our next blog post will wrap up the journey so far and explain our next steps – until then! 

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