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How to design digital public services: a talk by Dominic Campbell of Futuregov

As part of our series, Innovation Conversations, we hosted Dominic Campbell, CEO of Futuregov, who is also part of Welsh Government’s external Digital Transformation Panel.

Futuregov’s mission is ‘Designing public services for the digital age’. With a wealth of projects under their belt from across the world, they are one of the front-runners in their field.

Below, we’ve summarised some of the really salient points and tips that the talk covered. We recommend watching the whole presentation for a real insight into how we can use digital to make public services better.

We've summed up the five key points below.

1 Build don’t buy

  • Government needs to get out of the habit of buying solutions and tailoring them to suit their needs.
  • Invention is better than using an existing platform that isn’t fit for purpose.

ChildStory is the Government of New South Wales’ child protection programme. It is a digital solution to get the most important things done for children in care, as quickly and easily as possible.

Futuregov recommended a ‘prototype-to-procure’ method, which would build potential solutions to fit the problem. Lots of user research was conducted with families, children in care and care workers and four prototypes were developed that de-risked the rolling out of an effective tool for a vital service.

‘Empathy is hard but empathy is everything’

Dominic Campbell, Futuregov

2 We have to be digital, not use digital

  • Using digital isn’t enough; filling the gaps and covering existing services with a shiny new web platform won’t always improve the service.
  • Get users involved from the start and keep them involved, thinking about the entire user journey and getting their input where possible.
  • Digital shouldn’t be seen as an added extra to the existing service, it’s what the user expects.

3 Empathy is hard but empathy is everything

  • Putting yourself in the shoes of the user when redesigning a service will result in a better outcome
  • Use tools like service safaris, interviews/focus groups and user journey mapping to better understand the experience from the user’s perspective

Working with City of York Council, Futuregov helped to redesign a digital tool called Accomplish which helps the Youth Offending Team to collaborate with young people to set goals and track them. Previous versions had been unused but mapping user journeys and testing provided new insights that made the tool effective and usable.

4 Be disruptive

  • To make a worthwhile change, you have to be disruptive. Prototyping can help minimize the risk by failing early on and user involvement can help justify the changes you want to make

5 Digital and design aren’t enough on their own

  • Using design processes is a great way to get you thinking differently about how to use digital in your project, but it isn’t enough. You also need:
    • Leadership - someone to drive the project forward and support from the top
    • Strategy - a clear understanding of how the project fits into the organisation’s strategy

Inspired by Dom’s talk?

You might want to read Eddie Copeland’s blog on Six alternatives to traditional top down public service delivery. You can also read case studies that explore the Offices for Data Analytics in the UK.

Author

Amy Richards

Amy Richards

Amy Richards

Assistant Programme Manager, Y Lab

Amy is an Assistant Programme Manager at Y Lab.

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