Innovation Exchange

Dundee Design Academy

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Dundee is the UK’s only UNESCO City of Design and Dundee City Council is embracing design thinking to improve services through an exciting new initiative - the City of Design Academy Training and Mentoring Programme.

 

This combines solving a real world problem over the course of a number of workshops with learning how to use design thinking techniques to solve other problems and redesign services more widely. The academies consist of 5-6 days over a short period (up to three months) and consist of small project teams and groups of design champions. The project teams focus on developing a working solution to the problem while the champions learn the design thinking techniques used in the workshops to use these skills on other service re-design projects.

 

The Design Academy thus helps to deliver new and improved services to our citizens - for example, designing a new approach to communication between teachers and parents - while upskilling our employees in design thinking, to ensure that design principles and techniques are used to drive innovation and excellence across the Council.

Theme: Service Transformation

dundee city council logo

Design thinking helps us to better understand people’s needs and to generate and test new ideas, and therefore has a key part to play in developing and improving council services. Service design uses techniques from product design, business and sociology - and a set of design thinking principles including empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and a tolerance for failure - to understand the current experiences of service users and design better ones. The process is underpinned by the Design Council’s Double Diamond framework of ‘Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver’. The diamonds represent the opening up of divergent thinking to discover how things currently operate before using convergent thinking to define the problems to be addressed, then to represent how thinking becomes divergent again to consider multiple solutions before converging on solutions to be prototyped and tested. This process allows time for reflection and iteration, rather than scrambling towards a ‘solutioneering’ approach where surface issues appear to be ‘solved’ but the underlying issues remain.

 

The development of Dundee’s Design Academy began with a one day workshop for the leadership group of around 70 senior managers at Dundee City Council in June 2016, to introduce the concept and get agreement to the first project. Participants were asked to suggest key areas for attention which were distilled into themes, and Dundee-based service design agency Open Change introduced a range of design methods to enable the leaders to explore how outcomes for citizens could be improved by creative service redesign. The council’s management team then met to discuss the ideas which emerged and one was chosen as the focus for the first Design Academy - a project to design a new method of communication between teachers and parents, with the aim of improving educational attainment through better parental engagement.

 

Alongside people from education, the team assembled to begin the design academy journey included parents, staff from organisational development,  project professionals and modern apprentices - to include the necessary expertise while also helping to spread the learning on service design as far as possible. Some of those involved would act as ‘design champions‘, learning the techniques so they could aid with future academies and champion the service design approach throughout the council.

 

The first full day saw the project team and champions going through techniques such as service safaris, personas and customer journey mapping, and planning activities to progress the parent/teacher communication project. While exploring the various communication options that are currently available and how these might be enhanced, the day also introduced a wide range of design techniques to enthusiastic new service designers.

 

Here’s what Hazel White, the facilitator, said about that first day’s workshop: “At Open Change, we facilitate a lot of workshops – this one sticks out for three reasons:

 

  • Passion: everyone had a personal reason to be there, either to contribute to improving outcomes for children and young people, to learn new ways of working or to collaborate with colleagues - mostly all three.
  • Expertise coupled with a willingness to find things out:  we learned about a wide range of online and analogue ways of communicating that are already happening in Dundee - from familiar channels like school websites, gossip at the school gate, report cards, parents evenings and social media to specialist online channels like Class Dojo, Show My Homework, Class List - through interviewing the experts in the room and some rapid research.
  • Energy to get things done: volunteers (with great contacts) stepped up to interview parents, teachers, administrators and pupils at schools across the city to find out their current experience and needs”
  • Passion: everyone had a personal reason to be there, either to contribute to improving outcomes for children and young people, to learn new ways of working or to collaborate with colleagues - mostly all three.
  • Expertise coupled with a willingness to find things out: we learned about a wide range of online and analogue ways of communicating that are already happening in Dundee - from familiar channels like school websites, gossip at the school gate, report cards, parents evenings and social media to specialist online channels like Class Dojo, Show My Homework, Class List - through interviewing the experts in the room and some rapid research.
  • Energy to get things done: volunteers (with great contacts) stepped up to interview parents, teachers, administrators and pupils at schools across the city to find out their current experience and needs”

 

The group next came together after members had carried out interviews with parents and teachers. The information gathered was discussed as a group and all were tasked with creating post-it notes highlighting key benefits, barriers or observations gathered. These were stuck on a wall to begin the next task - affinity mapping – which involves sorting the ideas into categories, moving them round again and again, refining and changing until there is a settled list of categories and ideas. This was done silently to avoid opinions and discussion getting in the way of a fast sorting process. With the sort done, it was time to vote for favourites, which generated key points to take forward to the next design workshop, around involving young people in communication, communicating in a way which suits parents, celebrating success, and engaging more people in feedback methods.

 

Then the group moved to the next point in the Double Diamond design framework - developing the ideas - where the group used two ideation techniques - Rip + Mix and the fast ideas generator. These techniques got the team thinking about how we might begin to solve the problem of parent/teacher communication. Both of these techniques generated around 10 different solutions to the problems we had to solve.

Use of service design principles and techniques is helping Dundee City Council to solve real problems. This case study describes the use of design thinking in improving educational attainment though better communication between parents and schools. But the approach is also being used to improve employability services for young people and to re-design other services.

 

Our Design Academy approach is also building a community of leaders with the capacity to apply service design methods in a wide range of situations which will have a long term impact on the way services are developed and improved within the council.

 

Key to the success of the academy approach is the overwhelmingly positive mindset of those involved. They have embraced the opportunities that a design-led approach offers and have committed to bring service users into the design and development of services. This is helping to create a responsive, flexible organizational culture within Dundee City Council.

This project teaches participants about a range of innovative design techniques to improve or develop new services:

 

  • Service Safaris - getting out of offices and meeting rooms to observe, talk to people and gather insights - to see the world with fresh eyes.
  • Personas - using a series of fictitious, anonymous but believable characters to represent different groups of people, based on interviewing real people and bringing together their characteristics, experiences and needs.
  • Customer Journey Mapping - showing services/experiences visually from the clients’ point of view, including how they feel at the key stages in the customer journey - Aware, Join, Use, Develop and Leave.
  • Idea Generation – using techniques like Rip + Mix and the Fast Idea Generator to challenge traditional thinking patterns. Rip + Mix is all about generating ideas quickly through innovative thinking. You take a pleasurable product or service and mix it up with a non- pleasurable one to create a new product or service which combines the best of both. It’s a fun technique which gets people thinking differently. For example, in the project on parent/teacher communication, the group Rip + Mix’d weight watchers meetings, recipe books and evening classes with things like parents evenings, celebrating success and digital communication tools. The Fast Idea generator is similar to six hat thinking – it takes the service or product and asks what if we added something, took something away, emphasised a part or merged it with something else. It’s a really good tool to get people thinking differently and looking at the same problem from different angles.

 

Key to the learning from this project is involving design champions, both in supporting those tackling specific challenges and expanding their knowledge of and confidence using the design techniques which can then be applied to other services.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Steven Kyle

Changing for the Future Programme Manager

Dundee City Council

01382 434522

Case study added to site: May 2017

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