Understanding and sharing the problem… finding opportunities

DesignCitiyChatThis photo shows a key moment for me when finally after 5 years of working on Service Design Leeds – Thinks & Drinks, Leeds Service Jam and Leeds GovJam… Tom Riordan, CEO at Leeds City Council walked through the door of Leeds GovJam with his colleagues to find out about service design and jamming. Matt Edgar and I have been running SDLeeds on a voluntary basis, creating a regional service design network, bringing the latest thinking on service design and nurturing a community to explore service design by doing and learning together. When Tom and his colleagues walked into the room, we had no set expectations… but were delighted a conversation could begin.

I have worked inhouse in large organisations and independently as a freelance consultant, something I’ve learned across all client situations is – the relationship with your client is critical. It’s important to work closely with clients, to ensure what they are asking for, is indeed what they need. Digital DWP and Leeds City Council attended this years Leeds GovJam on the hunt for new ways of working to enable them in the development of services whilst experiencing enormous cuts in funding. Small incremental change is not going to be the soloution, the time has come for more bold and radical approaches. I know service design thinking can help. As a service design practitioner and trainer, I am looking for opportunities to apply my knowledge and skills in people centered service design and service jamming.

When considering service design and service jamming I have asked myself two questions… how do I know this is what these clients need? and how do the clients know this is what they need? The answer to both is actually another question… do we each understand the problem/challenge that needs to be faced? I’m not going to sell clients my favourite design process/tools, if it’s not going to get them the results they need. And inturn, I don’t want clients to waste their time trying out high investment solutions, when they’re not quite sure what the actual problem is.

So is it possibly time for service design practitioners, (inhouse and externally) and service design commissioners to sit down around the table and explore the challenge/problem together, to discover how to respond to the GIANT cuts heading our way in the city’s public services?

Understanding the problem is the first job of any design practitioner/person planning a service redesign… it enables solutions that are worked on, to meet defined known and needed criteria, before then testing out in prototype form. The problem for Leeds City Council at face value seems to be losing enormous amounts of funding and cutting back on spending. My first question is then… what do you really need to deliver? what is essential? Then my next question would be – What services do you have now? Who are they for and who/how to provide that service? Auditing all services on a basic functional level would hopefully show where there are overlaps of need/service provision/staff capability. That then gives you an opportunity to merge and cross purpose services losing many extra costs. I wouldn’t run ahead without asking – how did we use to do things and what really worked and was efficient in the past – as cuts have slowly increased in social care over the past 20 years a lot of good practice and cost saving opportunities have been lost. Speaking to service managers on the ground level, with many years experience can reveal high value insights.

As well as starting to work/partner with service design and innovation practitioners I would also consider skilling up the staff inside organisations and services to use design tools and techniques themselves. Many people inside organisations are making design decisions everyday without having had any design training or support. There is an opportunity to equip the people inside organisations to work more effectively, learn together, share insights across the organisation and solve problems from the inside and not just wait for some design super hero to arrive on their steely charger. I’m sorry but the bad news is that designer/consultant/shiny agency does not exist.

So I have a hunch that together with my service design/jamming colleagues we can help Tom Riordan and his team to look at their public services challenge, we’d be lean, agile, MVP and full of enthusiasm. But I think first it’s time to talk to find out more.


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Leeds GovJam 2015

It’s Saturday and I’m sat at my desk with a cup of tea reflecting on the past week and in particular Leeds GovJam. What happened?

IMG_4488Time to Jam – I returned to jamming, having missed this years Global Service Jam, after a period off work doing family care (see WeCareDesign). It was lovely to be back on track and to receive such a warm welcome.

Team SpiritTeam Spirit –  I found a growing GovJam team of doer’s at the jam, people who give up their time voluntarily to make it happen and do all the jobs that need to be done. Si Wilson arrived on Day 3 with Donuts for everyone… he knows how to make us all happy. We’re a happy bunch and I wish I could work with them more… it’s great when a team just support each other, bring their unique skills and generate energy – a proper ‘can do’ culture.

GovJammers 2015Leeds GovJammers  – They came from national government (Department of Work & Pensions), local government (Leeds City Council) and the outside world of innovators, creators, project managers, admin and the people that get things done and help make services happen. I met a whole new set of people from the city (a few people back for more after last year) with everyone eager to rock the public sector.

Hungry Jammers LHungry Jammers – Yes, we do like good food. (Thank you to ODI Leeds for providing such a lovely spread! We made HQ office rather jealous.) But I’m talking hunger for service design learning and jamming here. I found an increased eagerness to learn new skills, new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things. Learning by doing in a safe and fun environment worked well. People seemed ravenous for people centered design, more than I’d seen them before, one group created 12 personas for their cross welfare environment service. In the UK there’s an increased need for innovation in the public sector, due to huge cuts in funding and people are engaged to make a difference in a tough environment. We experienced that through the jammers that came along.

Passport Booklets 2015NEW Passport Booklet – We combined the passport and tool posters into one passport booklet. They were snapped up on Day 2, were stamped over the weekend and none were left behind! I look forward to hearing how they’ll be used out in the field now. [Let us know if you use the passport booklets all feedback really interesting for us.]

Stick Figure GroupsStick Figure Game – After doing stick figures as an initial ice breaker game at registration for a few years, the activity seemed to take off, people loved doing ‘stick selfies’ and we started to use them in a more active way. I’d initially imagined them as a way of  helping people introduce themselves to each other… a stick figure paints a thousand words! It also helps people think of themselves as ‘people/users/customers’ from the start. This year Sharon Dale added little foot stands and used them for the voting stage of the team selection process. Some jammers created new stick figures as persona characters in their service prototypes. Social media seemed to pick up the stick figures and interest was created outside of the room too. [Let us know if they’ve inspired you to do something new.]

IMG_4466 Blind DrawingBlind Drawing Game – Valentina Vezzani (from PACO) introduced us to this game at the Service Jam last year. Everyone is given a sharpie and a few pieces of paper. They join into pairs, look at the person’s face and draw… no looking at the paper! We then quickly jump to another person to draw, and then again. We put people’s favourite portraits on the wall and then use them to link up new connections… so we can see our social network/community developing over the three days. This exercise helps get everyone onto the same page – rough/bad sketches are good… just visualise and draw your ideas, as it helps communicate and develop the real service experiences.

CookTruck PrototypePrototype Building  – this went to another level when a pop up bus and kitchen arrived in one corner of our work space on Day 2. I was particularly impressed by the kitchen hob – with real burners! On Day 3 two new doors arrived on the wall… creating the background for another group’s service. Services were being realised in three dimensions, quick and dirty and we all experienced how effective it was. It was a delight to see how all the materials on the resources tables were used creatively and differently by each group. No rules, lots of open space and resources provided lots of freedom to create.

Live Persona TestingLive Persona Testing – this was a technique I came up with on a recent training workshop in my own private practice. We needed to fast track the learning of how to apply personas to service prototypes to test service experiences quickly. Getting someone from another group to be the persona (or one of the personas for the purpose of show and tell session). There’s nothing like putting a real person into your perfect prototype and testing it out. The uncertainty can be quite challenging for some, it’s so easy to fall in love with ideas, but in a fun ‘can do’ environment it is a way of learning where things don’t work, having the chance to iterate, and then test it again… seeing Matt Edgar’s Service persona as a 70 year old man was hilarious – he may be trouble in his old age. The more people put into this, the more energy and learning comes out.

TomR Talk to GroupCity Interest – we invited guests to our final session and were delighted to see Jim Downie again, Head of Building Capability in DWP Business Transformation (incl Digital DWP) our headline sponsor for this year’s event. He has opened doors for the Digital DWP teams to explore service design and jamming in a new way. I was also greatly encouraged to see Tom Riordan the CEO of Leeds City Council, he highlighted the council’s need and commitment to encourage new ways of working and thinking in the council – seeing Leeds Jamming and Service Design community as a new way forward.

Matt Edgar LeadingMatt Edgar – I’ve had the great privilege to have worked alongside Matt for seven years now… we met at Orange when he became our Design & Usability team manager. He and I started SDLeeds – five years ago and as we’ve invited people to the Thinks and Drinks events, we’ve steadily watched interest in service design increase. I introduced Jams to the mix and we’ve been doing, testing and learning ever since. As some of you know, I’ve been off work for a while; Matt has taken the lead on Leeds GovJam in particular, taking the jams forward to the next level… bringing in higher interest from DWP and LCC and making service design relevant, meaningful and understandable to that audience. Matt has fine-tuned our jam working processes introducing us to Trello and always finding new ways for us to collaborate online to optimise time and limit our number of meetings (we all juggle family lives too). Matt continues to make us all feel valued for what we each bring to the Jam, whatever our involvement, and the growing team is a reflection of his leadership.
So a very BIG THANK YOU to you Matt.

Me taking photosTears –  Yes I know I can be emotional… it’s one of my gifts – I get passionate about real change for the vulnerable and those in need, I’m a people person. I also just want everyday services to work really well for everyone across the city. So when Tom Riordan CEO of Leeds City Council did his little talk on engaging with service design and design thinking, and then a council worker talked about council interest in their service prototype in their final presentation… tears of joy over flowed. It was my Martin Luther King moment… I had a dream – Thank goodness it wasn’t just me… we all shared it in some way at Leeds GovJam this week – we wanted to rock the public sector and we did.

Jim JamThank you – Service Jamming all started with Adam Lawrence and Markus Edgar… but this year’s jam started with Jim Jam our Global GovJam news reader… we loved him! The HQ team is an amazing team that are the backstage magic for Leeds GovJam… we wouldn’t be here without you. From all of us here in Leeds… Thank you!

Note: Lots of the photos above were taken by our fabulous Lisa Jeffery you can see all the beautiful photographs here… Woop!


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Jamming, hacking and making the City you dream of…

GSJ-Blog2We are quickly approaching a rather interesting weekend for innovation and collaborative working in the city of Leeds (7-9 March 2014). You have the choice of The Leeds Service Jam, part of the Global Service Jam or the National Hack the Gov event in Leeds, part of  National Hack the Gov  run by Rewired State.

The Leeds Service Jam is one of over 100 events running in parallel across the globe, bringing together Jammers to make services together, over a 48 hr period. The Global Service Jam & the Leeds Service Jam are in their fourth year and each year is an opportunity for new learning in service design, making new connections and challenging ourselves afresh.

The National Hack the Gov event is running in Leeds for the first time, tapping into the national event running for the past six years. Leeds is aiming to bring together thinkers, doers, creatives and designers from around the city, to look at ‘hacking the gov’ with some of the city’s newly available open data.

We were a little bit frustrated because we couldn’t be in two places at once, services will definitely be involved in both events 😦 But we’ve come up with a solution,  together the two events have found a way to share key event points across the weekend – Friday briefing, Saturday lunch and a shared presentation at the end of both events on Sunday.

Both events are about risk taking, ‘learning by doing’, creating fresh new perspectives and the two events are collaborating… that’s a first. Having led and/ co-organised the Leeds Service Jam for the past three years, this year is something new, something more dangerous and a little more scary than most as we don’t really know what will happen. But before we jump into this year’s plans here’s our story…

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What is the Global Service Jam?
Imagine a Jam session in music. You come together, bringing your instruments, your skills, your open mind.  Someone sets up a theme, and you start to Jam around it. You don’t over analyse it, you don’t talk it to death, you Jam. You bounce your ideas off other people, and play around with what comes back. Together, you build something which none of you could have built alone. And at the same time, you are learning new ideas, discovering more about how you work and whom you best work with, sharpening your skills, and having a great time. And who knows, maybe there are one or two ideas there which might make it to the next album. Or maybe you Jammed so well, you decide to form a band…

The Global Service Jam works in just the same way. But it’s not music you are Jamming – it’s change. You’ll be working with people you might never have met before, bouncing ideas off one another and building on what bounces back. People all over the world are Jamming around the same Theme, sharing insights and support globally. And it’s not just talking – you are here to turn your ideas into a concrete design, prototype and plan of action which you or somebody else might want to make real.

Can you prototype and plan it in a way that someone could go out and make it real, knowing what resources they would need, what they should do, and who they should talk to?  That’s the challenge of the Jam.

Global Service Jam HQ

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So where did the Leeds Service Jam start…

As a group, myself, Elizabeth Peacock, Jane Wood and a team of service design supporters initiated the first Service Design Jam in Leeds. I’d met the GSJ Founders Adam StJohn Lawrence and Markus Edgar Hormess at a conference workshop in Berlin and brought back the thinking to Leeds. We were inspired by the ‘can-do’, ‘high-energy’, ‘collaborative’ and ‘maximum-fun’ approach… [cue: Rubber Chicken]. We learned that we were allowed to be playful in our work, and that that was a good thing. All three organisers were interested in Service Design as a discipline (still not widely understood) and to share learning with the wider community of Leeds. 25 varied attendees gave up their weekends to create three great new service prototypes but, more importantly, connect with new people and ‘learn by doing’ together. Old Broadcasting House was our venue, a perfect workshop space enabling lots of different kinds of creative working. We were kindly supported by NTi Leeds, Orange UK and free parking from Leeds City Council. The new service prototypes addressed Environment, Crime & Community needs in the city.
See the results

After a steep learning curve in 2011 we decided to go ‘low key’ on event management, and had a two person jam just for fun. A Jam can be any size, just like a band jamming… it’s the free flow creativity that’s the thing. We really enjoyed jamming, working on a new service prototype for Community Development. We connected with our pals at Glasgow Service Jam, to get a wider view of activities going on over the weekend. Sometimes less can be more.
See the results

We geared up again… Service Design Leeds – Thinks and Drinks (Matt Edgar & Kathryn Grace) wanted to do more ‘doing’ service design activity in the city. Together with Simon Zimmerman from Hebe Media we hosted our third event at the shiny new Duke Studios. The venue was inspiring in itself and it was a delight to be able to use the space and collaborate with Laura Wellington and James Abbott Donnelly for the first time. We had 25 attendees at the event, some newcomers and some more experienced in using service design and able to share and exchange ideas more richly. Service prototypes looked at making city shopping and leisure time easy for people growing older, a local currency that fuels exploration and an innovative playful amd fun foodbox scheme.
See the results

Every year is different, and in lots of ways quite independent, letting it be what it can be, based on the people involved each time…

So this year… the scene had changed again. SDLeeds had actually made a decision not to host a Global Service Jam as there was so much going on and we didn’t want to just do a repeat event. And then a door opened… Matt Redding a student architect from Leeds Metropolitan University, now working on placement at NPS Group approached us, to ask about hosting a Global Service Jam again in the city. He presented a broad picture of how he saw closed loop systems and his new discovery of service design and jamming. After his event experience in Australia, Matt was now looking to host a design event and he was keen to learn about Service Design and wanted to ‘learn by doing’. Bringing students into the event was something we had looked to do in previous years, with limited success, so this was a great new opportunity.

The Global Sustainablity Jam, a sister event, held in November 2013, introduced us to Valentina Vezzani a visiting research fellow at the University of Leeds’ School of Design. Valentina jumped at the chance to be part of the GSJLeeds event for 2014. She was looking to develop ‘jamming’ further in the city and introduce us to PACO a Milan Design collaborative… for us to share in her thinking and experience.

For all of us… we were interested in collaborating, allowing a little chaos into our thinking, to be challenged and develop together by Service Design jamming.

So what will it be like this year?
We have a mix of jamming and service design experience, leading the event. We are mixing professionals, academics and students for the first time. Like any Jam session, you don’t know… you just set things up and then let them happen.

Prototyping will be the language that brings everyone together by making things with our hands – making things real, testing them with users, experiencing them ourselves, iterating and refining as we learn.

We’ll be trying out different service design techniques that will help us realise initial ideas and put people and real contexts into the centre of everything we do… live, active prototyping.

Although we will be interested in Leeds, we won’t limit our thinking/prototyping to the city exclusively, but be open and bring all our translations of the event’s secret theme into play.

The event is supported by SDLeeds, PACO Collaborative and NPS Group.
Our venue is the University of Leeds’ School of Design.
We will have Jammers from Leeds Metropolitan University who will be taking part and recording the event. All the Leeds Jammers will be generously bringing their skills, time and energy. We hope to have a great time together.

As part of the Global Service Jam, we will be connecting with other Jams in Manchester, Derby, Glasgow and further afield in Milan and following 100+ cities on our #gsjam twitter stream.

Locally we will be connecting with the National Hack the Gov event in Leeds, to share food together and provide some exchange/collaboration time, finishing with a show and tell session at the end of the weekend. So 2014 will be a truly Glocal event, collaborating and being open.

This year we are sharing the event management load wider across a new team and I’m focusing on resources, mentoring and networking with other Jams. (And chipping in here and there to keep things on track).

Why do we do it?
Well for me… it’s about bringing a dream to life, a dream I had when I first left my home city of Leeds in 1989. I left Leeds thinking “I’m going to go to London, to learn my trade (as a designer) and bring it back to the city”. Twenty five years later, Leeds is now SUCH a different place, no longer the place I wanted to escape from when I was a teenager and the people are great! The old Leeds was grim, Thatcher strikes, no extra curricular activities at school… sitting on the school wall at lunchtimes in the cold. Yet my Gran drummed into me, ‘Remember where you’re from!’ and that stayed with me. I love being a global citizen, speaking other languages, connecting with all sorts of people/ideas/cultures around the world, but I also want Leeds to be the City I dreamed of… a place I want to be, a diverse and creative place to learn and be inspired. Interestingly I don’t want Leeds to be the biggest or the best, but I want Leeds to be what Leeds alone can be, unique, itself,  genuine, outward looking, connecting, diverse, welcoming, celebrating difference, inspiring, playful, challenging, breaking the boundaries of geography/culture and showing us all that we can be so much more when we work together.

Image: The Icebreaker Game at GSJLeeds2013, introducing ourselves as stick figures to each other, ready to collaborate and work more effectively together.

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Digital Health Lab – A Service Designer’s Experience

DigitalHealthLab-Blog4I really had no idea exactly how the day would play out. Victoria Betton had described it as a ‘hack’ type event. I knew we were working within NHS Mental Health Services and were about to look at the future of services with the addition of ‘digital’ and ‘apps’. I knew service managers, technical, digital, mobile and design professionals would be there. I agreed to go along to contribute and learn about current service knowledge/ideas and maybe enable a a few service design/innovation projects to start.

We were welcomed by our host for the day Mike Chitty, who presented a very open and accessible hackday, we were invited to “shout if we start using jargon or you don’t understand something”. Alongside the whole event we had an illustrator, Tom Bailey, observing conversations, and visualising what people were saying, to help people’s understanding throughout the day and to visualise different groups’ service concepts at top level as they developed.


I was really delighted when we then went round the room introducing ourselves and declaring our interests for the day. This is always a great start, so you can pitch your conversations appropriately and connect with people more quickly. I was attending with two hats, one as a ‘service design and innovation consultant’ (translation: people centered designer – who does digital) and two as a family care giver for my elderly father who has Alzheimer’s amongst other health conditions (translation: bringing much personal insight on older people/dementia care management).

So a few people raised project ideas they were interested in pursuing and attendees could self select which group they would join. It was made clear from the start you were not bound to one group and could move around if that suited you. My ears pricked up straight away when one attendee mentioned older peoples’ care, that they had a project and three from the team were there. Another attendee mentioned they were also interested in dementia services. So I joined the older people/dementia project conversation.

As a service designer I use sketching to help enable idea development and group understanding, so I started to sketch what people were saying and noted down key points. This activity always raises a few eyebrows (why are you sketching/drawing what I am saying?), but it really helps people clarify what they really mean and enable shared understanding to develop ideas more quickly. The service managers started by saying “we’re not digital designers, so we’re very new to this”, to which I responded – “you are experts on your patients, staff and service needs… we can add the digital advice”. For some reason people can feel like they are ‘lesser’ because of their limited knowledge of digital – this is a mistake, they under estimate the value of patient/staff and service knowledge they already have which is equally valuable. Another challenge we had to address was leaping to the conclusion “we need an app for this!” believing that making a solution a digital app on a tablet will solve everything. This is not the case and sometimes a simpler web solution could do the job and be accessible to more users.

So with our group we scouted through a number of people and service needs around older people and dementia services.
i) The Mount: Wards 3&4
– patient information support while in hospital
– learning digital skills for self help, recovery and general life
ii) City wide Dementia Cafés
– reinvented with digital

We chose to focus on the Mount Hospital Wards 3&4 needs as a whole. Our conversation turned to the needs they were going to meet, the way the services work today, the needs they meet well already, the gaps, the difficulties experienced by staff and patients. People can be a little shocked that this is of interest – as it is their ‘everyday experience’, but without this deeper shared understanding, whatever you come up with may look great but not guarantee to work in the real world.


We then looked at digital options – instead of jumping to a final product concept we looked at the idea of a ‘minimum viable product’ ie. what digital activities could the service managers start doing now themselves to gather deeper learnings on patient/staff /service needs… to feed into a more developed and informed project at a later stage – our solution was a wordpress site – free on the web – starting as soon as they were ready.

We then had to prepare a presentation for the dragons den at the end of the day.
So how far had we got? We had:
• let everyone bring their insights/views/knowledge to the table
• discovered how Ward 3&4 work today
• dared to dream what an ideal patient/staff/service experience could be
• explored the patient and staff needs/experiences as we saw them
• explored the wider context of digital inclusion outside the project
• explored the current digital skills class
• identified gaps in our knowledge of what did and didn’t work currently
• imagined what we could do tomorrow to make a start…

Having visualised our ideas and conversations from the whole day on white cards we could start to lay them out as a story on the large white table cloth (our presentation canvas).

DigitalHealthLab-BlogOur final presentation was a work in progress… the service management team were in a totally different place from where they had started… their challenge looked very different and they had something to show their manager from the day. There was a sense of excitement and satisfaction in having achieved and learned something together. The tablecloth was  going back to the office, where they were going to proudly present it on the wall. No doubt new conversations have sprung up as a result of this and I look forward to seeing how it all develops.

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A Healthy Spark

IMG_2255The weekend of 8/9 July saw a grand start to new business when I attended the Synergy Surgery: Creative Health event. Science City York, Innovation York, York City Council and Knowledge Transfer Network – Creative Industries hosted a design and collaboration weekend bringing together creatives, academics and health professionals to work together.

The project themes/needs were crowd sourced by the Innovation York digital forum Genius, and each delegate selected which theme group to work in. I joined the sharing real time health information group with five others. Led by two creative facilitators the groups set off on the Saturday morning to design service solutions, leading us through different stages of project planning, divergent and convergent thinking to enable design and filtering of ideas, customer journey mapping, using a range of different techniques like describe the service on one post-it, create personas for the potential service users/collaborators, prototyping and particularly in our group sketching. By Sunday afternoon we were presenting final concepts and competing for funding. Our dragons were the CEO of York Council, The Director of Public Health and an NHS Official and the funding was the new DIF fund which is now available.
Two winners were announced at the end of the weekend
• Video Doctor service
• Health Spark social media information service
Both won funding from the DIF fund a new fund that has just opened in York.

News coverage from the weekend… The Press

Since the weekend  the group have created a core group for project consultation and I have taken on the management of the project’s future development. SCY and Innovation York are supporting the project development to development with a few to delivery in early 2014. Our business plan will be in for the board meeting at the end of August. All being well, we will be starting the first stage of the project in  September… what a great start!

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Start of a New Chapter

wheeltoferrariAfter six years working in Orange, Everything Everywhere and EE as a Service Designer Manager it is time to start a new chapter. We have seen six years of great revolution in the world of communication and digital technology. Design methods and processes that worked for us twenty or even ten years ago no longer meet business or user needs today.
I think it’s time for businesses and organisations to rethink their working methods/ approach and introduce Service Design and continual Design Thinking into what
they do each day.

Over the next few weeks I will be updating this site with details of my new role and direction and future service offerings. The future is most definitely very bright.

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