Challenges From Designers’ Perspective

Co-design risks being little more than a buzzword (Blomkamp, 2018). So in Blomkamp’s article, it defines co-design

as a design-led process, involving creative and participatory principles and tools to engage different kinds of people and knowledge in  .

Based on this definition, there are three key components of co-design. The challenges are also from these.

  • Principles — to involve in-depth collaboration with users
  • Process — to be agile
  • Tools — to enable engagement, comfortably and inspiredly

Challenge 1 — Majority or Everyone?

No matter you are an amateur or experts of co-design, you must know one of the principle is to focus on the major user groups only. In other words, building a product for “everyone” is the best way to loose focus and speed. Creativity needs constraints and being too broad is never a good .

However, public service design often focuses on high-level decisions that impact “everyone”. By fear of discrimination we often end up in the exceptions game: “This service is good but wouldn’t work for this very specific population” (Claudio, 2017). In addition, this “everyone” has a very broad definition, including end users, citizens, stakeholders, professionals and experts.

So here comes the challenge — how might we guarantee the accessibility while only focusing on a specific user group? Should we only include a specific user group in user collaboration and create persona only for them? For example, to co-design a policy for social welfare system, we need to bring users to participate in the design process. They may include the young, the old, the healthy, the unhealthy, families or employees. We don’t want to let anyone out, do we?

Challenge 2— Agile or Authoritative?

In a typical process of co-design, being agile means ready to change. However, governments have a limited space for test and failure. They are expected to roll out error-free policies that will live on forever, or at least until the next reform. Going quick and dirty on policies and regulations is less recommended.

Also, iteration and changes will also affect end users. How might we ensure that every user can embrace changes very well and smoothly?

So here comes the challenge — how might we be agile without affecting government’s reputation and end-users’ daily life?

Challenge 3 — Speech Freedom or Play it safe?

There are lots of tools to enable communication and engagement in design world. For example, post-it notes, sketches, kanban board and online collaboration tools. They can be easily applied in public sector settings.

Since the existence of researchers can always be a interference in contextual inquiry or interview, how might we make people feel safe and open to talk? Especially in front of a government staff, who may be wearing a formal suit and tie and knows every details of your personal information.

So here comes the challenge — how might we create collaborative tools which can help people to feel safe and open up in public sector settings?

Challenges From Government’s Perspective

A large group of casually attired workers gather on a cold winters morning in a co-design workshop in Canberra. One thing that made the group feel more like a collective was the black and white lanyards each member wore. Apparently, they were from the Australian Public Service (APS). One topic they were discussing, was the challenges that they met when applying co-design in the APS.

Voting by a collaborative ‘dots and sticky-notes’ way, here are the top 3 challenges prioritised by participants.

  1. Cultural change — the structure and culture of government is not well suited to co-design.
  2. Political and ministerial intervention — balance between ministerial demands and user needs
  3. Difficult to maintain focus on long term outcomes as well as be adaptive/responsive in short term — restricted by budget cycles, IT development and timeframes

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