Cllr Lynne Short’s Dundee GovJam Reflections

Guest post by Lynne Short • Convener of City Development • Dundee City Council

Sometimes the best things happen by accident.

I had only intended to pop my head in to the first evening of the Dundee GovJam 2018 service design event, to show my support for those taking part and find out a bit more about the project. Forty-eight hours later, hooked by the energy in the room and the potential to make real changes to the way we deliver services, I was still there! And I have to say I loved every minute of it. As a councillor, it was inspiring to be in amongst so many public servants passionate about what they do – here and all over the world.

In Dundee, we had great speakers, a fantastic venue (The Factory Shop on Reform Street, but more of that later) and a team of facilitators who have bought into the difference that service design can make. Yes, we joked about the post-it notes on the walls and the Sharpie pens. We even found ourselves opening tubs of Play-Doh at one point. But for those who might turn their noses up at these things, I’d challenge you to give it a go first. I’ve now seen just how powerful and effective a tool service design can be.

Having made the easy decision on that first night that I wanted to take part, I soon found myself in a group tasked with finding our project. There was no set task, we just took a theme and started “jamming” on different ideas. Service design is all about looking at things from the point of view of the user, so we headed out onto the (thankfully) sunny streets to speak to folk. There’s so much to be gained when we just take the time to chat. Folk share all sorts of things – what they love about their city, what gets on their nerves, how they would like to see things improved.

Through our conversations, key themes emerged around how people engage with the council. Around a hunger for clear information. And around a desire to see historic Reform Street thriving again. The Factory Shop which was our home for the event is currently being used by the UNESCO team as a showcase space. Its long-term future is still to be decided – and that gave us an idea!


What if it became a hub for people to visit while in town, to find out more about what is going on in the city, to engage with services and even just to hang out and enjoy art and performances?

Service design demands putting your concept to the test, so we built a quick City Hub prototype and got more views. The good people of Dundee certainly don’t hold back, so we got a good taste of the rule of failing fast and failing often… But through the process, and a second “living” prototype, we came up with something that we think really works. And it was clear from the presentations which wrapped up the event that other groups had made similar progress. I’m looking forward to seeing how the ideas created by the various teams evolve beyond the GovJam, because it’s important that we harness the creativity and turn it into concrete change.

I took so much from the two-and-a-bit days the 70 of us spent in the shop. New connections, local and international (there were other GovJams happening all over the world at the same time, sharing ideas via Skype), new skills and ways of thinking about how we deliver services, new ideas offered up by our citizens.

On reflection, perhaps the best things don’t happen by accident after all.

They happen by design.