Open Change: further reading

For those who take part in our Open Change Academies, our sessions provide participants with some essential tools and awareness to apply design thinking in their own professional fields. However, we can only scratch the surface in terms of putting this into context and looking at the evidence. This is where their homework comes in! Even if you have not attended the Academy, you may find these sources and exercises useful.

Service Design: From Insight to Implementation: Andy Polaine, Lavrans Løvlie & Ben Reason


You can download the full electronic version for £15 – it will be a key text on the Programme, or read some introductory chapters for free here.

This is Service Design Thinking is a very good introductory book by Marcus Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider.

Systems Thinking in the Public Sector, John Seddon

Bringing User Experience to Healthcare Improvement: The Concepts, Methods and Practices of Experience-based Design Paul Bate, Glenn Robert

Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions

Design innovation in public services

Governments and public sector bodies the world over are recognising the value of design in terms of driving innovation in public services. It is necessary to appreciate the diverse practices that accrue value from embedding design in the public sector, and the various approaches adopted. Research by the Design Council and others have identified a three step process.


We can therefore begin with one-off projects in which design is used but not recognised as part of the culture of organisations. As we will see there are some excellent examples of design-led projects which have resulted in demonstrable improvements in elderly care, reducing violence in hospitals and improving services for unemployed people, among many others. The effective use of web-based technologies to improve services also falls into this category.

In the next step up – design as capability – design is an accepted part of operational culture. Public sector professionals here use design thinking as part of their day-to-day practices and understand how to commission service design professionals where this is necessary for larger-scale or complex projects. At this level there is a demonstrable improvement in how professionals see the services they provide through users’ eyes.

Finally we have step 3 in which design is part of policy making and has a strategic role. As the Design Council explains:

Here design thinking is used by policymakers, often facilitated by designers. This is a relatively new discipline and much of the work on it so far has been experimental, but the logic of design’s application here is strong given that it meets some key policymaker needs:

  • A joined up process, from policymaking to implementation
  • A low-cost way of mitigating risk through prototyping
  • A way of getting an overview of a system
  • A way of cutting across departmental silos and engaging people from outside government too.


When you click on Design for Public Good this 95 page report will open in another window. This is a critical report, published in May 2013, that helps us understand how design can enhance public services, and allows us to consider how our own practice measures up against those of others. In this publication, members of SEE (Sharing Experience Europe), a network of 11 European partners, present a series of case studies and tools to enhance the understanding of design for public sector innovation and facilitate the integration of its methods into mainstream practice.

While it is a detailed report, it is very readable and focuses on many of the practical issues involved in redesigning public services and embedding design in public organisations at a strategic level. Many of the examples and cases reported on are already in the public domain, and you should be able to find further information on them online.

However, we recommend that you consider these specific questions to help focus your reading:

An overview of the design process is presented on pages 18/19:

  • Assess your organisation or team in terms of these issues – for example, to what extend is your thinking joined-up, and would you say yours is a citizen-centred process?
  • Can you identify any recent progress?
  • What are the major barriers to change?

The public sector design ladder and case studies are presented from page 28:

  • Do you know of other Step 1 type projects in your field?
  • Which of the case studies are most interesting or relevant to you and why?
  • How could Step 2 design be developed in your organisation or sector?
  • How could Step 3 be best pursued?
  • What practical ideas do you have?
  • In summary, where are you, or your organisation, on the design ladder?

Evaluation: measuring the impact is discussed from page 80:

  • What evaluation criteria would be most relevant to your field?


We would also like you to read this report, published in 2015, that maps the impact and value of design in public and third sector projects. Hazel White, of Open Change, is one of the authors of this report. As you read it, please consider these questions:

  • Which case studies are most relevant to your field?
  • Which aspects of the practices, methods and approaches are transferable?
  • The 10 conditions for impact on page 3 – how many apply to your team or organisation?
  • What do you consider to be the priorities in terms of building capacity and skills?

Finally we suggest you watch Alex Nisbett, Service Designer at Livework talk about one of his recent projects: The Design and Delivery of the London Olympics 2012 Spectator Experience.

The London Olympics was widely held as the best major sporting event ever held – especially in terms of the spectator experience. London 2012 was the first Olympics “to explicitly design and deliver a spectator experience for the World’s greatest sporting event”.  The Olympics is a hugely complex undertaking involving millions of spectators over a concentrated period of time. In this 50 minute entertaining and hugely informative talk, Alex takes you through the inside story of designing the Olympic experience.