I am a proud co-founder of a local service design breakfast group which meets monthly in Brighton. The gathering is a space for discussion and support for service designers living and working across Sussex.

Those who take part are my service design crew - people who inspire me and help me to step back and see many different perspectives with the work I’m doing.

We’re an ever changing bunch; this month made up of people from local and central government as well as a number of freelance service designers and individuals from service design agencies.

We had some great suggestions for discussion this month including:

  • How to use service design to remove inherent discrimination in a service
  • The role of nudge behaviour in service design
  • Green service design - how to design with the planet as a stakeholder
  • The tension of designing for an organisation’s agenda when service design is supposed to be user-centred
  • Using service design to support policy work

But in the end, we focused on how service design can be used retrospectively to help a struggling service due to be re-procured.*

We had a really rich debate about the role of service design in procuring and improving services and here are some of the thoughts and questions that came up through our discussion:

Our systems and processes

How does service design, which is inherently ‘agile’ in approach, work with our current ‘waterfall’ style approach to procurement? How can we build in continual iteration to a procured service?  

Stepping on toes

As service designers, sometimes our role is to step on toes. To ask difficult questions when it’d be easier to just complete a standard procurement exercise. This takes bravery, especially when you’re working for an organisation as a freelancer or when you’re saying something that isn’t going to be popular with senior people.

What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?

There are often pots of money for specific bits of work, and we can get caught up in spending that money to meet that aim instead of stepping back to ask ‘what are we trying to solve here?’ and ‘what does the user need?’.

What does the user want?

We wondered (and hoped!) whether in the future the user voice will be so powerful that service design - designing around the user - will become a habitual way we manage any change process.

SD safaris

One person mentioned the power of ‘going on safari’ - taking the product or service owner out onto the high street or into a different setting to get inspiration outside of their normal habitat.

What research has already been done?

I shared the Hackney User Library, a website hosting lots of research that has already been completed and can give valuable insight into a topic.

It was a brilliant session and the hour we had together was not long enough for all the ideas people wanted to share.

I’m already looking forward to the next one, taking place from 8:30-10:00 on 4 September, hosted kindly by Clear Left. If you work/live in Sussex and would like to get involved, please come along!

*Excuse me for not going into specifics - this is to preserve the confidentiality of the group.