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Design in the Public Sector: An insider’s view

Design in the Public Sector: An insider’s view

6 August 2015

In January 2014, Design Council launched a programme called Design in the Public Sector to increase 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.

In early 2015, Devon County Council (DCC) contacted Design Council about the programme to see if there was a way it could help engage and inspire its staff while driving innovative new ways of transforming its services for the better.

DCC recognised that in the changing space of public services, the need to couple new skills with being agile and responsive in the way it thinks as an organisation is more important than ever. It also saw that any solutions needed to be suitable for the council’s rural context and diverse makeup of their staff.

So, after its successful application, on 15 July three members of DCC started their journey with an intensive two-day workshop to analyse what its core challenge was. The team decided to keep a blog of their experiences on the programme. Here are some excerpts.

Carl Haggerty, Digital Communications Manager

Our challenge is to find engaging and innovative low or no cost solutions for our employees to become highly immersed in the aims of the organisation, self-directed in their learning and willing to change their thinking and behaviours.

The organisation will need to be more agile and responsive.

We know the future of public services will require a cadre of experienced and knowledgeable leaders, staff and members, equipped with the skills and learning needed to transform services. The organisation will need to be more agile and responsive, with access to the methods and tools to effect serious and radical change.

For an organisation experiencing rapid change, we need a high level of engagement and personal transformation by our employees, to produce the most effective outcomes and services for the people of Devon. If we massively increase participation in the organisation’s goals through engagement and learning we believe this will help our employees create innovative solutions and be inspired to do better things.

Kevin Gillick, Strategy, Policy and Organisational Change team

Getting the opportunity to take part in the programme was a very exciting feeling. We have been grappling with how to get people at DCC better engaged in the aims of the organisation and trying to find out if people were interested in self-directed learning for some time.

We have tried a few ideas, but we are not sure if these are any good or if they are what people really want. These ideas in some ways are just guesses - we didn’t really ask people what they wanted.

A big, big test for us is how we bring people with us on the challenge as our core group is limited in numbers.

The Design in the Public Sector Programme gives us another approach to issues in question. We are hoping it will challenge us to find out what people really want in new ways. This of course could be a bit scary – we are not sure what we will find and how the ideas may be viewed by others, hopefully not as too wacky or a novelty! I’m hoping to have fun here, but with a serious result in mind.

A big, big test for us is how we bring people with us on the challenge as our core group is limited in numbers. We want other people to have the excitement in ‘real-time’ with us but also realise our ideas are going to change as we go. We want to expand the number of people who know about ‘Design Thinking’, but are not sure how to do it at the moment. The major question is: will we have the energy to do this as well as the programme? 

The second stage of the Design in the Public Sector programme takes place in September. Devon County Council will continue to blog about their experience and you can keep up to date here.

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