Welcome to DesignGov (and what we have been up to in our first 6 months)

I am happy to announce in my first blog post as CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Public Sector Design, that the Centre will be known from now on as DesignGov.

Our tagline, our statement of intent and what we are about at DesignGov, is ‘Reframing problems, reshaping experiences’. Design driven innovation is proving to play a key role in providing new ways of understanding or reframing problems and therefore offers new ways of addressing known problems in corporate, community and government sectors throughout the world, including Australia. The aim of public sector design and innovation is to reshape people’s lived experiences – to reduce the gap between what is and what should be, and to add a bit of ‘wow’. And this is both for the citizen outside and the public sector worker inside!

The other key elements of DesignGov’s identity are that we are an asset of the entire APS. Rather than being seen as a stand-alone ‘Centre’, I will be encouraging agencies and their leaders to see us as a useful part of each of their agencies.

In that spirit, we will also make sure that everything we do will be done in partnership with others. As a small group, with a strong ‘authorising environment’ in the form of the Secretaries Board, and a sizable challenge, we can leverage the power of new methods, interests, capabilities and enthusiasm of others as we explore  the nature of wicked problems, contemporary public service, and opportunities for real change and better public results. Ideas and behaviours such as collaboration, cooperation, citizen-centred, co-creation, co-design, and co-production will not just be words for us at DesignGov – they underpin everything that we do.

In addition to sharing our new name and telling you a little about our identity at DesignGov, I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you about some of the things we have achieved in the first six months of DesignGov’s life:

  • I have met or spoken with the majority of the Secretaries, a number of deputy secretaries and other SES colleagues from across the Australian Public Service, many state and territory government innovation leaders, key stakeholders and members of the design ecosystem (both in Australia and overseas) to identify the problem areas where design and DesignGov can best make a contribution

  • DesignGov’s Board has met on two occasions, and agreed the focus of the first project and we are working with areas across the public sector (and soon hopefully the business community) to better understand the interaction between business and government and how it can be improved

  • We have designed a project prospectus as a vehicle to educate and attract investment from public sector agencies and, potentially, other sectors

  • We held our first Insight Workshop with representatives from 26 Commonwealth agencies on the theme of Innovating for Business, Innovating for Government

  • We have undertaken a number of awareness-raising events such as a film screening, a visit to Canberra by Christian Bason (Director of DesignGov’s inspiration, Denmark’s MindLab), a training workshop on design thinking for members of the SES, and our first ‘show and tell’ event about design practice

  • I have spoken at many conferences, workshops andplanning sessions and hope to do more to raise awareness of design-thinking and the opportunities for bringing the outside-in to sort through the many challenges impacting the public sector, staff, customers and stakeholders

  • We have been working with design practitioners across the public service to develop a shared language about design that should be helpful in agreeing a problem-solving methodology for multi-agency problem-solving and initiatives

  • We had a successful work placement with us with Fatima Beattie, (Deputy Director General IP Australia) who was on a SES Talent Development Program, and we would welcome approaches from others who are interested in doing so (funded by the home-organisation)

  • We have commenced discussions with a number of private sector design firms, academics, and other groups about the formation of a co-design network that can help leverage existing design capabilities and expertise to assist the public sector in applying design to public problems

  • We have been exploring what it is to be a ‘start-up’ in the public sector (yes - it’s a challenge operating across and in between organisational structures and core interests). We are capturing those experiences and will make sure that we put forward suggestions that might help other cross-agency exploratory initiatives and that assist fit-for-purpose project-based work.

It has been a very busy and exciting period for our tardis of a team. We have all learnt a lot, and met fantastic people who are keen to collaborate, learn about design-driven innovation and then do it. I
am looking forward to the New Year as we get truly underway. Thank you to the many people, organisations and designers who have helped us get this far. Let’s see what we can achieve in 2013!