Service Design in Government 2015: day 1 take-aways

Conquering Complexity: Mindset as a tool to shape public design culture & capability

The day started with Jess McMullin and Alex MacLennan‘s keynote.

Jess and Alex have been working with the Government of British Columbia in developing a service design framework to be used across departments to set a standard of work, and also to guide people from across several disciplines to use these tools and resources.

Their talk focused on the importance of recognising complexity and dealing with it:

  • complexity is pervasive and fractal
  • Governments need to change in order to confront complexity
  • change is often challenging because we are unearthing the decisions of those who went before us
  • we must not only change our organisations but also ourselves

We should forget the theoretical made up personas and go do real world research instead.

Legislation is in the foundation of service experience.
People will say that legislation prevents things from changing. We should challenge that as it is not always the case.

The framework for Service Design in Government has 5 layers: experience, touchpoints, delivery, foundations, mandate (cultures, norms, values).

Service Architecture Canvas:

Design maturity continuum:

Make people think like designers:

The British Columbia Government User Experience Toolbox:

The ‘Gov Whisperer’: someone who can get public servants to realise their own design potential. The person who creates an environment where it is safe to change, safe to innovate, involving people in the design process.
Every public servant can be a service designer (even if unconsciously).

Government is an important part of our lives yet we design Angry Birds with more care than we do Public Services.

Individual heroics cannot substitute for lasting systemic change.

From a Service Design perspective, complexity means different pieces of legislation, data models, processed, different systems being used…all behind a click of a button on an online form.

A community not a library: Design patterns for government services

Workshop by Caroline Jarrett and Tim Paul.

The GDS team‘s work on GOV.UK is saving £62M a year.

The top 28 services used account for 90% of the transactions.

When starting developing GOV.UK, people wanted to jump straight into Bootstrap, but the Design Principles were created first to guide future work.

Reducing the amount of questions in carers allowance form wasn’t design work, was negotiating with stakeholders.

Service Manual for designing government services:

GOV.UK design patterns:

Top items people like to work on design patterns:

Design patterns:

  • can’t be imposed on people
  • can’t replace designers
  • can’t negotiate with the business
  • can help with consistency
  • can provide known answers to common problems
  • can provide a focus for the community

Developing evidence-based and user-centred digital inclusion strategies

Talk by Liz Stevensson.

It’s only after delivering a set of digital skills to the community that we can think of offering government services in digital channels.

There’s a growing digital divide between next generation users and those who are not.

The Digital Inclusion circle:

The Cambridgeshire County Council vision for digital participation:

Barriers to digital inclusion: access, skills / trust, and motivation.

  • Access: the ability to connect and use the internet.
  • Skills / trust: the skills to use and engage with content, and transact on the internet.
  • Motivation: people’s attitudes and choices for being offline.

Don’t let preconceptions limit your design of digital processes. The concessionary bus pass online application for at Cambridgeshire County Council is an example of successful digital take up.

Think of what skill levels you are designing for and accommodate for various skill levels.

Think also of the digital skills set within your organisation in order to effectively implement and process digital transactions.

A strategy for digital inclusion:

Embedded image permalink

People in deprived areas are more likely to be / become public services’ users.

A system of digital inclusion and skills development:

Embedded image permalink

Action plan for digital inclusion:

Embedded image permalink

Supporting Public Service Innovation Using Design in European Regions

Talk by Anna Whicher and Adrian O’Donoghue.

Challenges in designing services to extend independent living for older people in Ireland:

Embedded image permalink

Pilot project in Ireland to extend independent living for older people:




Outcomes from service design workshops on adult social care in Ireland:

Embedded image permalink


Ireland spends £21M in adult social care. Here are some benefits of the new service to date:

Embedded image permalink


Lessons for service designers:

Embedded image permalink

Lessons for Government: prototype and map user journeys at the outset; learn to engage stakeholders.

Engaging 2500 + London Underground staff in service re-design

Talk by Ben Reason, Alison Little, and Pele Bapere.

Staff Engagement model at Transport for London: facilitators, workshops, reachback.

Embedded image permalink

Reachback: get the staff who attend your workshops to have similar conversations at their workplaces.

Approach for running workshops with staff: validate, prove, test, monitor.

Embedded image permalink

Staff at Transport for London were happy because they felt their ideas were taken into account even if not all taken forward.


Redundancy is a common fear for staff facing change. Starting engagement workshops by addressing this issue has worked for Transport for London.

More information at

Lightning Talks

Deloitte Digital

The future of technologies:

Embedded image permalink

Digital Darwinism:

Embedded image permalink
Ione Ardaiz Osacar
Service design goals at Vodafone with transferable lessons to the public sector:

Embedded image permalink

New Zealand Government

Google vs Gov website performance. Google 5 times better:

Embedded image permalink

The New Zealand Government adopted the approach of the GDS team on building GOV.UK, but adjusting to their own audience:

Embedded image permalink

Thriving Families: developing different, better, lower cost family services in Derbyshire

Presentation slides:


One thought on “Service Design in Government 2015: day 1 take-aways

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: