The lovely people at 31Volts have asked me to write a post about thinkpublic’s approach to designing services with users…here goes…
What we do at thinkpublic is co-design.
We work with people to help them make things better. We bring our knowledge of the design process to support service users and providers in the design and implementation of service innovations. We Design ways for people to engage with each other as well as tools to communicate, be creative, design their own solutions. From our experience this is a crucial element in any project. We use our skills as designers to facilitate engagements between the project stake-holders in an informal and constructive way. It is the relationships that are developed here that will enable changes to be implemented and sustained once you leave and the project ends.
Using co-design to engage and work with difficult groups is really valuable, this is particularly evident in the Dott07/Alzheimer100 and the NHS Experience Based Design projects we are currently working on. Working with hard to reach groups requires a lot of thought, there are very good reasons why they are hard to reach and you must be aware of the issues when approaching the project.
With both of these projects we found that there was a lot of great work going on, around these services. This is often the case in the NHS where one of the biggest challenges is sharing good practice. It was vital that we linked all of this together and involved everyone in the design process and support them to co-design solutions together.
Put simply it is all about relationships, the challenge is to get groups of people all doing great work on their own to share their learning, have conversations and begin designing the solutions they, as the experts, want?
I wholeheartedly believe that this is the best way to work, using our design skills to help others design the solution themselves. After all, the people with the real experience of what it is like to work, live and use the particular service are the ones best placed to design it.
There is a lot of talk in the UK about this, particularly around the Dott07 project. It feels like a really exciting time at the moment, with designers playing a major role in the future of public services. What do other people feel about this? It will be great to hear what the feeling is across europe.