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Design in the Public Sector: An insider’s view – Part IV

Design in the Public Sector: An insider’s view – Part IV

2 October 2015

Devon County Council is part of the latest cohort in the Design in the Public Sector programme hoping to learn how to better engage staff and find innovative new ways of working.

Having already blogged about the initial two-day intensive workshop they did in August (which you can read about here), the members of the team now share their insights from the third day.

Carl Haggerty, Digital Communications Manager

So we had what was essentially our third day as part of the Design in the Public Sector programme - this time our focus was on ‘insight’ and we were fortunate to have the wonderful Becky Rowe from ESRO provide a masterclass for us - but more on that later…

After the first two intensive days in Bristol - which blew my mind and challenged my thinking - I was hoping that this session would be equally challenging and inspiring, and indeed it was.

The first thing we did was to listen to everyone’s progress since the first two days. This was an opportunity for everyone to provide feedback, gain some new insights on other people’s challenges and also reconnect with people.

We then jumped straight into an excellent masterclass by Becky Rowe. Now, I was really looking forward to this session as we were inspired by Becky when we spoke to her over dinner on our first day in Bristol.

I was frantically sketching some notes as Becky outlined how insight and research supports all stages of the double diamond, which you can see here:

She also told us a story about work she had been involved in concerning reducing violent behaviour against staff and patients in A&E, which used the process, methodologies and triangulation of insight to reframe the problem and identify an appropriate response.

What struck me from her story is how often we (organisations) develop policies and then practise based on little real evidence, a lack of triangulated data and insight. We tend to be driven to focus on the one-off instances, or interpret scenarios to better match our own worldview of what we think should be done about the problem. What Becky reiterated is that research is not about providing answers, but about providing insight to make decisions. She also challenged us to think differently about how we collect insight and whether or not we are looking at appropriate insight as opposed to insight which has a narrow focus.

An example of this is only focusing on responses to a survey and basing decisions on that, whereas the approach I heard Becky talk about was deeper and more meaningful. Instead of just collecting responses to questions, she would spend time with people, observe and gain new insights. The real challenge to us all was: would we prefer to make decisions on responses to questions we asked or perhaps the insights from spending quality time with, for example, 10 families? There is a need for both types, as this builds a picture - one which we can respond to and iterate against.

So much was learned in such little time.

Becky then challenged us with some exercises around defining research objectives linked to our projects. I found this really helpful and something which we will be continue to do. Overall, so much was learned in such little time. I came away from this bit of the session inspired and intrigued by the work Becky and others do in this space.

That afternoon, we were introduced to Logic Model Theory and application, which is a very useful way of mapping outcomes - to actions - to outputs - to activities - to inputs - to need, and really helped our group focus on the details of what we needed to do. I found this session difficult to engage with because my head was still in the insight space and I felt I needed time to reflect or even experiment more with it. But we persevered and found the process hugely valuable - so much so that we took a few extra copies of the template.

Kevin Gillick, Strategy, Policy and Organisational Change team

Day three started with us chatting on the drive to our destination about ‘Government as a Platform’. This light topic had us wondering how we could scale service design prototypes up in a different way without losing some of their good features, in a potential procurement exercise.

My take-away word from this session was ‘triangulation’.

After a quick review of projects, we were straight into a rapid User Insight Session with Becky Rowe. My take-away word from this session was ‘triangulation’, which I have been using ever since! Thinking about using different data sources to back up other work has been very useful when applied to other change methods, such as some Systems Thinking work I have been doing with our HR department too.

Becky was also keen to use the Double Diamond with stakeholders and the session focused on getting the most from research insights as well as asking the right questions. It was backed up with some good examples.

The afternoon introduced the Logic Model to help evaluate impact, again another model that has much wider use. So in summary, Day three gave me knowledge that had a much wider change reach, further tools to help clarify what we were trying to achieve and the usual headache/brainfreeze about half-way through!

Jo Prince White, Senior Workforce Development Advisor

Nothing beats an expert speaker and at this month’s Design Council workshop we had a great one! We’d met Becky Rowe from Esro at our first Design Council event, on a ‘speed-dating, meet-the-expert and have-a-drink’ evening and were wowed by her knowledge and approach.

The next big challenge is getting the data into a format that will mean something to those who will see it...

Becky took us through the double diamond model again, this time putting meat onto its bones and making it come alive. Exploring, revealing, analysing, evidencing, rethinking, challenging – these are now all new words in my ‘setting research objectives’ mental folder.

The next big challenge is getting the data into a format that will mean something to those who will see it... or even getting them to see it at all. This focused us back to thinking about our stakeholders - just who are they; what do they want to hear, when and how? Decisions, decisions!

Devon County Council will continue to blog about their experience and you can keep up to date here.

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