We've been developing our understanding of service design practices for over three years now, and there are some great examples of projects elsewhere on this blog. There has been some fantastic work done, and, perhaps as importantly, better relationships formed, tackling challenges in new ways.
It's not as if we have a large design team supporting these projects! Until the middle of last year we had a wonderful service designer, Ajo Clua, helping us on many of the projects we've written about, working with some great folk internally. Ajo is currently on maternity leave from her freelancing business and we hope to work with her again.
Maintaining service design as a practice has come in a few guises since, and it's been great to see people using the methods and tools we've gathered and also gaining learning elsewhere too. We made an application to the Design Council in the autumn and two of our Heads of Service, Tina and Andy, joined the public sector learning programme looking at a project on work and skills.
Recently Tina and Andy took the whole of the Leadership College (our regular gathering of around 80 organisational leaders) through their project and what they've learnt about design. It was great to see how well received their design session was at the College meetup, and that confirmed to me that this way of working feels much more familiar to people. You could see it in the room. It's the sort of stuff people had heard about already in conversation, or had experienced directly in a project here over the last three years.
We've also had our customer service leaders developing the Effortless programme with service design methods in mind. They shaped their discovery work in a great way and did some excellent research with customers. Recently they created a champions’ group of 25 people from across the organisation, and adopted and adapted Louise Downe's Good Services standard (they added a principle on hitting carbon neutral by 2030). Each champion has been given a copy of the Good Services book, and they are really excited about their future work. Two good service assessments have already been done, drawing out lots of great insights and ideas about what those services can start to tackle.
Our organisational development business partner, Amy Newnham has got the practice lead role for design in the organisation, and it's proving a fantastic bedfellow with her OD work. We aim to explore this more and more as we continue to build ways to make design a capability (or at least an understanding) that all changemakers have. And there should be many changemakers in an organisation, that’s for sure.
Our council strategy is called Platforms for Our Places and one of the five Platforms is Good Services and New Solutions. This includes digital, customer and design programmes and we are now also setting up another group of more senior folk from across the organisation who will be part of the Good Services Platform Group. This includes the Bereavement Services Manager, Housing Solutions Manager, Principal Accountant, Head of HR, Building Control Manager, and many more such roles. Our customer champions will regularly come and do show and tells (a couple of them will be permanent members of the group), as will the digital team. The group aims to do a few things, from tracking projects, to learning about design theory and storytelling, visiting other places, and inviting others to come and talk to us. We have a purpose setting session coming up later this month. Project needs will come up from the Good Services assessments and the champions which the Group will consider, deciding on priorities and project resourcing. I will be there, as will Jan Jonker our Head of Customer & Digital, allowing us to sign off on spend in an agile way.
I'm excited about the fact that between these two new groups we are working regularly on customer, design and digital with around 50 leaders and staff from all across the councils. That speaks to how far we've come with embedding these practices and making them relevant to all - it's the only way we approach change now.
You do need core and specialist resourcing, and we have plans in the budget to create a proper design team - though it won't be big at this stage. However, when you have an army of 50 people behind you, you have a great chance of making stuff happen.