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Open Change Academy: building communities of service design

Open Change Academy enables your organisation to build service design capacity. We have drawn upon our considerable experience of designing and delivering pioneering postgraduate courses to meet the needs of demanding, busy professionals, structured around two intensive three hour sessions. Our aim is to provide an engaging, relevant but most crucially short programme that equips these individuals with tools, skills and understanding that they can apply in their own very different professional practices?

The Academy model is flexible enough to cater for the needs of professionals working across the public, private and third sectors, providing masterclasses, intensive one and two day sessions, personal coaching, pop-up primers and summer schools.

We have been developing and delivering professionally focused courses in strategic design for over twenty years, including the highly acclaimed Master of Design for Services programme. Alongside this we have undertaken research and consultancy for clients who include NHS Scotland, the Home Office, the Design Council, Deutsche Telecom, the European Institute for Brand Management and the Children’s Hospice Association, Scotland.

Dundee is the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design, and we believe with a passion that the city could pioneer bold, exciting models of using Service Design to make Dundee a city shaped by and responding to the needs of its people. Sure, we can use design as a tool for one-off projects in the City, and to some extent this is already happening. We can, for example, design improvements in health services and design out crime opportunities. But the next step up from this is to recognise and use design as part of organisational and operational culture. This requires us to significantly increase the capacity of public, private and third sector organisations in the city to gain service design expertise and apply it in their day-to-day work. Then, of course, above and beyond this, design becomes part of the DNA of the city’s strategic thinking, policy making and democratic engagement.

Impossible? No, we don’t think so. And we think this can be done elsewhere too.

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The experience of our Open Change Academy prototype is that we can provide a meaningful and useful programme in just a few hours. We discuss our pilot session here – you can read about the methods in more detail – what follows is the gist of it.

The Open Change Academy in Dundee

The Participants

Our invited participants included dentists, community activists, consultant surgeons, PR consultants, professional musicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, educators and students. We have yet to comprehensively evaluate the programme, but the initial indications are that it has been successful. We approached developing the programme as an exercise in service design itself – seeking to understand the needs of our participants in advance, finding out what worked and what didn’t after the first session, then re-developing necessary elements.

Day 1 (three hours)

In the first half day session our participants went on Service Safaris to see the world with fresh eyes – attempting to understand people’s behaviours and barriers: they were tasked with organising journeys on the Caledonian Sleeper, ordering replacement recycling bins from the local authority, placing bets on horses, getting a bank account set up for a social enterprise, collecting a travel entitlement card and obtaining advice on a laptop or tablet device for an elderly relative. We developed personas to understand people’s motivations and aspirations – and developed Customer Journey Maps to highlight the things that worked well, and the things that could do with a rethink.

Day 2  (three hours)

On the second  session, we introduced frameworks for thinking about designing change – we focussed on the Design Council’s Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver ‘Double Diamond’ model. We signposted a number of idea generation methods – NESTA’s Fast Idea Generator, DeBono’s Six Hat Thinking and the old favourite – brainstorming. We had a hands-on Rip+Mix session, where teams analysed ‘good’ service experiences, and ‘pain points’ in their own work environments to develop new ideas. Innovative ideas included new systems for how elected representatives could reflect the views of their constituents over their time in office, networking opportunities for staff and students in universities and a city-wide entrepreneurial radio station. The ideas were presented as future evidence – a news story from the future about what the impact and benefit of these ideas would be. We used backcasting, an analogue team-based project planning tool to create a timeline of who and what needs to be in place to make these exciting ideas happen.

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Fast Feedback

The response has been very positive and encouraging. Some of this can be seen on Twitter, and we will post more here over the next few days. For us, the excitement has been to develop a flexible, responsive and transparent user-focussed way of learning, rather than a bureaucratic institution-driven exercise. The Open Change Academy bridges boundaries and  extends the possibilities of how design can transform organisational and civic cultures. We’re doing it in one very special, vibrant and aspirational city – but the lessons and outcomes can be applied far more widely. Dundee is a UNESCO City of Design, but with the right support, encouragement and professional development, we could build a model of Communities of Designing for Services across the world.

There’s a real will from the broad community – public services, business and the voluntary sector for this change to happen. Get in touch if you want to be involved.

Read what design consultant Wendy Maltman wrote on her experience of the Academy:

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