17 May 2013

A public servant’s view of service design

Earlier this year we looked at the role that service design is increasingly playing in government, reflecting a trend that is being picked up around the world. While it’s one thing for designers and external parties to suggest the discipline to government clients, what’s the view from “the inside”?

Heli Leinonkoski, the Administrative Director of the City of Jyväskylä in Finland, recently took time out to learn about service design, and see what it could bring to municipal government.

Through the Finnish Institute in London, Leinonkoski spent three months immersing herself in service design practice in the UK, and meeting practitioners (Snook and Engine, among others), and public sector clients (such as the Kent County Council and West Sussex County Council).

The outcome of her work – a 52-page report entitled “Service Design – An Approach to Better Public Services? A Civil Servant’s View” – is available in full online, and makes interest reading for people from both areas.

She starts by looking at the impetus behind public sector service changes – the pressure placed on services by cuts in funding as well as the development of new services. Although Finland and the UK operate differently, some key issues are common.

The contrasts between services in general and public services are also highlighted, along with an in-depth chapter on the practice of “design thinking”. Seeing this practice linked to government services is something new, because design thinking is usually more closely related to commercial activities (she quotes Roger Martin and Tim Brown, for example).

The remaining two sections, which make up most of the paper, are about introducing service design as a practice to those that are unfamiliar with it, and showing cases in which service design has been applied in UK public sector projects.

She finishes with a letter addressed to anyone else in her role – a municipal government employee – in which she strongly advocates the practice of service design in government. It’s a heartening display of support that also lends credence to our own activities in this area.

Source: “Service Design – An Approach to Better Public Services? A Civil Servant’s View” (Heli Leinonkoski, via The Finnish Institute in London)

Design thinking (15), Methodologies (11), Public sector (9), Service design (41)