Posts tagged ‘public administration’

November 6, 2008

Obama’s acceptance speech is a design brief (?)

A discussion on design for democracy in a list on design and transformation forced me to think about the relevance of Obama’s victory acceptance speach as something very similar to a design Brief. Peter Jones (Humantific) asked some fundamental questions that forced me to listen to the speach again and again and think about that for the whole day,

Peter asked the following questions:

What is such a transformative design brief? Let’s say before the “Obama design brief” is written, who frames the problem with Obama and how is this done?


What kind of brief creates the space for something new to show up, in an inclusive, co-creative way, making way for this leadership for participation we now are seeing?






I’m  not sure I am able to answer, but I can try:

Any good brief should start from a Problem definition. The speech somehow frames a problem definition, proposes what in design terms I would define a methodological approach and opens the discussion for a vision

Problem Definition:

“we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers”

This statement refers to deep unbalances in the economy, which reflect in social and economic inequalities. The problem is how to reduce such inequalities. In other speeches before this he talked about a redistribution of wealth across the American society. In general the problem definition concerns the generation of a more equal society and a society based on participation


Methodological approach (How should we solve the problem, what are the problem solving strategies):

“we have never been just a collection of individuals, we are the United States of America”

Refers to a perspective that refuses individualism as a value. This perspective, of course, is not calling for a new form of socialism, but remarks the essence of a nation as a community of people, with their diversities, but with a common identity.

Furthermore he reminded how this electoral campaign was based on a sort of bottom-up approach, as he was not the candidate of the highest levels of the hierarchies, but the result of a common effort of citizens to support him. Other references in the speech are to the sense of participation and responsibility of people. Besides the obvious rhetoric of this part of his speech, the speech refers to a space for co-creation, participation, based on the activation of the whole society, starting from the lowest levels.



In the last part of his speach he opens a window on the future (especially that of our kids):

“if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?”


This is not yet a vision, but a call for a shared vision of the future (he puts it as a question and use WE, not You or I as a subject).


I think this gives a good frame to us, as designers, to imagine design for democracy as a future perspective for our activities.

Design can work for democracy by transforming public institutions and administrations in order to support a process of active involvement of people in finding their own solutions, expressingtheir own opinions and participating in the construction of a community or the identity of a city or the destiny of a country.

October 21, 2008

Design of the healthcare system

In an article on the Health Service Journal Deborah Szebeko talks about her experience of service designer in the public sector, an issue I’ve been working in the past (also in this blog). Deborah describes how she worked on service design in the healthcare sector and why are designers important in developing innovation in those sectors.

I also found interesting the description of the stage of the process, because I suppose it could be a step towards a sort of a “blueprint of the blueprint” of a service: she mentiones the following stages [the text in square brakets is my interpretation or the way I would qualify each stage]:

  • Observing to understand [I would describe this as the analytical phase]
  • Capturing patient and staff experience [interpretation of the analysis]
  • Mapping the service process and experience [towards a design concept]
  • Bringing people together to share experience and identify challenges [ concept solution co-creation]
  • Generating ideas and opportunity mapping [similar to concept selection?]
  • Prototyping [Prototyping, just that]
  • Testing and gaining feedback on prototypes [still on user’s co-creation]
  • Designing final output [Detailing]
  • Implementation and social marketing
  • Evaluation

I wouldn’t say this is the perfect process, but I would be curious to see whether this process could be compared with other service design interventions in the public sector.

May 15, 2007

Design of public services

Design for public administration

The theme of planning public administration services becomes more and more crucial in
Europe because of the stringent financial conditions imposed in this area, which is severely reducing the time horizon for the organization of services. The short term planning deriving from this condition often reduces the possibility to optimize the results and the available resources.
The ongoing informatisation of public services adds further complexity to the radical changes in this area. If not adequately designed, the informatisation process risks to increase the distance between public administration and its customers. On the other hand, an adequate design and development process for public service can emphasise broad innovation opportunity around the new services (that means at the local level). A new approach to health services, for instance, may generate opportunities for innovation for all the companies that are able to provide products and services to support the new solutions.The need to an adequate design process for public services is becoming more and more critical. Research in this area is growing, though there is still large scope for the creation of new knowledge, whereas the academic education is starting to introduce some programs on design for public services. Both the research and teaching activities, though, are mainly located in the disciplinary area of management and organization. Little contribution has been offered by the design discipline, although this discipline is slowly moving its focus from material products to immaterial values (service, experience, interaction) and is increasingly contributing to the design of new services.A strategic design process, that can really increase the qualitative level of public services must be based on wide time horizons and propose long term scenarios that can drive planning and political decisions. Another fundamental aspect to consider is the systemic perspective in service design. A tight cost reduction tends to separate each single functions in public administration, whereas an integrated vision of the service provided and the available resources would emphasise the opportunities for economies of scale and economies of scope.Service informatisation is the second crucial element that influences the interaction between customers and the organization in the back office. Several cases demonstrated that neglecting human aspects when configuring technological system may in fact inhibit the huge potential improvements made possible by technology.

The design discipline and the focus on services

Only in the last few years the design discipline has started a critical analysis of those themes. It has extended and moved its focus from material products to services, from manufacturing industries to all kind of public and private organization that can produce innovation. Furthermore a systemic approach to design supported the development of methodologies to manage complex systems in which new organizational logics that are replacing the traditional vertical and hierarchical structures. The new logics are based on horizontal forms of cooperation between heterogeneous actors who bring about their culture, knowledge, economic, social and cultural interests. Such forms of cooperation generate innovation that produce economic prosperity, but also increase the level of knowledge in local communities and create the condition for economies of scope.The design discipline has also been studying the interaction between new technologies and people when designing products and services, thus proposing different views and approaches to design the interaction between actors involved in services.While the most traditional approach to the design of public services keeps a rigid distinction between service providers and users, other studies on service design propose that both providers’ and customers’ roles are integrated in a process of value co-production, thus encouraging the active participation of customers in the definition of the solution. This is the condition for a better quality in public service and a better capability to provide solutions for individual needs. This perspective is particularly important in view of the increasing demand for a better use of resources. At present such demand has caused continuous and massive cuts to public services, whereas a perspective in which customers are actively involved in the production of solutions that meet their own individual needs suggests that public administrations can substantially improve the quality of their services, while specifying the target groups up to the level of individual segments.