What’s your problem?

By Maddie Stark on 21st Jan 2020

‘Your answer to someone else’s problem is not the solution.’

The statement above was the statement that opened the ‘Scottish Government service design champion training’ that I attended last year. As a sector, more than ever in 2020 we need to ensure that our services are fit for purpose and that we are truly meeting the needs and wants of the people that we are here to serve.    

Service design is the design of services so that users can solve their problem, complete their tasks and achieve their goal.

Having worked in this sector for over 20 years, I know that one thing we excel at is making things work. At all costs we’ll make it work! But is this the right thing to do? What if ‘it’ isn’t working because it’s not the right ‘thing’? As a result of this desire to excel, some of us can find that we are spending too much time developing and delivering services and not enough time discovering and defining the actual problem.   

The Scottish Government, over the last two years has being working the public sector and developed the Scottish Approach to Service Design (#SAtSD) a playbook on how to do service design. Chief Design Officer, Cat Macaulay on Twitter, defines this approach as an attempt to create a shared, “collaborative way of designing [public] services in Scotland”.  

Here at SCVO we are attempting to replicate this in the voluntary sector.  We are ahead of the game in our sector, we are person centred and able to move and adapt quickly to changing environments.  Ever-tightening financial constraints have seen us become more innovative, and perhaps now is the time to invest in discovering what the real problems are.  

Scottish Approach to Service Design puts people at the heart of designing services. Design with and for users, working collaboratively to understand the problem first and then design the solution.

The greatest emphasis is put on understanding the problem. Time spent on discovering and defining what; 

  • people are really attempting to do when they encounter the service
  • their current experience is of the service
  • their needs are as they interact with the service,

is time well spent and will go a long way to helping us ensure that our services are fit for purpose and that we are truly meeting the needs and wants of the people that we are here to serve.    

At the Gathering this year, you can join me at a workshop where we will explore what The Scottish Approach to Service Design is (#SAtSD) and focus on the first stage of the service design and delivery process – discovery.