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Design Commission Report Calls for Better User-responsive Public Service Design
Source: www.publictechnology.net
Source Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Focus: Citizens’ Service Delivery
Country: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Created: Mar 14, 2013

A new report by the Design Commission, set to be launched in parliament later today will call for greater design thinking in the public sector.

The aim is to ensure public services are made more responsive to users' needs, as well as more cost effective.

This is something executive director of the Government Digital Service, Mike Bracken, has been striving towards for some time.

The Design Commission's report however, is a result of an eight-month inquiry.

Titled 'Restarting Britain 2: Design and Public Services', the report makes more than a dozen recommendations for policy change within both national and local government.

It also makes recommendations to the design industry itself, arguing that a greater use of design principles at key stages in the policy process would help streamline public services.

In turn, it's hoped this will make them more relevant for users, while also saving money.

The key actions that the report calls for include:

  • The development of a design studio method for originating policy in central government;
  • The establishment of career paths and an advisory network of peers to support service designers in government departments;
  • Improved commissioning models for design services, with direct design input into the Government’s newly announced Commissioning Academy;
  • Design training to be included in all civil service training and the development of design practice toolkits for social and public sector work.
  • Make services more responsive by helping tackle the ‘disjointed incrementalism’ that has come to characterise public service design over recent decades, placing greater focus on user-experience and thus prioritising the needs of the citizen, not the service provider;
  • Provide a creative, critical problem-solving framework for national and local government to use to tackle issues where, as is often the case within the public sector, data and other empirical evidence is lacking;
  • Help improve public engagement and satisfaction with local services by opening up the service design process in a consultative and democratic way.

Good practice from Europe

The report will also include examples of well-designed and user-orientated public services from across Europe and the UK.

These include Helsinki's Design Lab and MindLab, Finland's and Denmark's government funded innovation units, and the UK Cabinet Office's Government Digital Service, which was responsible for GOV.UK.

The inquiry and report has been co-chaired by Barry Quirk, Chief Executive of Lewisham Council, and Baroness Denise Kingsmill. Speaking ahead of the launch, Quirk said:

“We cannot improve public services by attempting to optimise that which needs to be transformed. We currently have far too many 19th century facilities housing 20th century services that struggle to meet 21st century preferences and needs. Design and design thinking offer a fresh approach to re-thinking policy, professional practice and service delivery. Design and redesign must be central to how we can transform our way of thinking about the future of public services.”

Baroness Denise Kingsmill added:

“The UK is a world leader in design. Yet we seem reluctant to apply that expertise to that which arguably requires the most effective design: public services. There are examples of excellent service design in the public sector, as this report shows. But we need to see these good design principles integrated more widely and more fundamentally into the DNA of national and local government if we are to build services around the needs of people, and not around the maintenance of the status quo.”

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