Why haven’t we changed the world? Addressing the system conditions

TPO at ‘Service Design in Government’ event – 9-11 March 2016

Ruth Kennedy and Perrie Ballantyne will be presenting a case study of ThePublicOffice’s ongoing work with Essex County Council at the upcoming ‘Service Design in Government’ Event in London, in March 2016.

ThePublicOffice has been embedded in Essex County Council for 2.5 years, supporting work across health and social care (including early years, working age adults with disabilities, dementia, mental health). Through this ‘sleeves rolled up’ work, we have created an explicit approach to learning, that is helping to challenge organisational structures, approaches and priorities, and establish skills for innovation sustainably within the organisation and its partners.


About this Case study

Service design alone is not going to change the world.

Service design brings with it a really powerful set of approaches and methods, which public service leaders are beginning to be interested in to support transformation in localities. But too often service design happens as a ‘stand alone’ thing, or within compartmentalised projects; commissioners of service design and service designers themselves are insufficiently attentive to creating the conditions in which these disciplines can have systemic and sustained impact.

TPO will be asking a series of questions in this session:

  • What does it take to make service design thinking and activity mainstream?
  • How do we stop the prevailing conditions (culture, leadership, governance, capabilities, measurements) squishing the energy and ideas that service design methods can unlock?
  • What additional skills and capabilities are needed in a team or organisation to enable service design to support transformational change for citizens?

This session will:

  • describe the work we have been doing with a learning community of commissioners, all of whom have been building their own design thinking capabilities
  • share common issues that we have been observing across the work: things that are getting in the way of embedding efforts to create change (with commissioners and providers and citizens/communities themselves)
  • share tools and activities that we have created to support a more explicit conversation that exposes and addresses system conditions.

ThePublicOffice’s role in Essex is possibly unique, in terms of the depth of our engagement with the Authority and the breadth of our activity across the Council (and with partners in the NHS). This sustained engagement has led to a depth of learning that we believe is rich with resonance for the service design community and those that commission them.

For more information about this event please click here.

Ruth Kennedy