Civil Service Live

9 March 2009 saw Civil Service Live move to Gateshead, where the power of design to help deliver better public services was showcased for thousands of delegates. london1

Four public sector managers shared their experiences of using design and how it has helped them reinvigorate their services.

  • Malcolm Page Deputy Chief Executive, One North East outlined how his regional development agency had been encouraging the use of design across the private and public sectors. He believes it can help in terms of productivity, wealth creation and in safeguarding of jobs.
  • Sunderland City Council's George R. Brash spoke about a worklessness project that put service designers live|work together with public sector managers to help ‘hard to reach’ people get back to work.
  • Tim White, Director of Regeneration, Middlesbrough Council always thought of designers as ‘people who design fancier kettles or better looking irons’. Working with the Design Council on Urban Farming project for Dott 07 (Designs of the times) he quickly learnt that they are much more than that.
  • Jim Edwardson Chair of the North East Regional Forum on Ageing and self professed ‘convert to the power of design’ spoke about his experience of using design on a Dott 07 (Designs of the time) project, Alzheimer100, which looked at how design can improve the daily life of people with dementia and of their carers.
  • Claire Byers is the Director of Public Affairs at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. When she joined, returning visitor and visitor recommendations figures were lower than desired. Working with service design agency live|work and consulting with frontline staff and visitors they identified that the user experience is the key to achieving their targets.

This event is evidently a very big step towards civil servants recognising that service design is vital for overcoming the challenges they face. I would have liked to heard more about the response from the audience. Do these managers intend to embrace service design again in the future? Some of these projects are over two years old...what message is this sending to the world about how fast service design is developing as a discipline and a skill set?

Dispatches: "Mum, Dad, Alzheimers and Me"

"Mum, Dad, Alzheimers and Me" Earlier this evening, Channel 4's Dispatches presented 'Mum, Dad, Alzheimers and Me', an emotional and insightful documentary about the reality of living with and around Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is a subject close to many people’s hearts. Infact my family recently went through a very sad time - grieving a special person who was with us in body, but not in spirit. This is why this post is much longer than usual...

Telling the story of ex-GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips, who is now a carer for her father the documentary was very emotional and moving, and truly captured the issues facing many people living with people suffering from Dementia.

Shockingly, 80% of sufferers are dependent on their family. Sufferers are unable to do small, basic things we take for granted; withdrawing money from an ATM, using cutlery and turning on the television.

The programme highlighted a lack of consistency in the services that are provided for these people, describing them as “patchy” . “The system is confusing and doesn’t make sense”.

The carers are facing a day-to-day struggle, trying to help someone living a life that is "over and confused". They also have to deal with the incompetence of companies who fail to re-direct mail of the sufferers who have died or moved to nursing homes!! Ridiculous.

For the people who can no longer read, photograph albums have replaced their books. Fiona's experience even captured her making her father ‘address cards’ to carry around incase he got lost.

Visual Memories

Unpaid carers are saving the government 6 billion per year. This program showed that sadly carers are left full of emotion years and years later. “Someone from high up has to realise there is something missing…they have to LISTEN.” There are so many misconceptions about Alzheimer's. What should the government be doing? What can we do?

In October 2007 I visited Design of the Times (Dott 07) in Newcastle Gateshead where I learnt about the Alzheimers100 project. Dott07 invited service designers thinkpublic to work with North East of England branches of The Alzheimer's Society, and investigate new methods for improving the everyday lives of people with dementia, their carers and service providers. This project illustrates how designers truly have the power to make a difference to sufferers and their families. I love the fact there are podcasts, images and so much information. Thank you Dott, and thinkpublic, for making this project so accessible!

It makes no sense to me that when you have a physical disease the NHS pay for your treatment. Yet, when you enter the care system your treatment is means tested. A social disease falls into a different category yet again. If you have Alzheimer's and can’t wash or dress yourself you do not get funded. Although, if you have a stroke the government pay for your treatment. The NHS and social service have to start working together. Now.

ThinkPublic in newdesign spotlight

Thinkpublic's Deborah Szebeko, features in the latest edition of newdesign . "The article profiles Deborah and draws attention to thinkpublic’s unique position in the public sector of applying design models and processes to a range of contexts to encourage improvement."


Congratulations! This is the kind of media coverage public service design deserves!

I am Public Service

i am public is a U.S website dedicated to sharing the stories of people who work in government, and seeks to change the unfavourable perception of the public sector personnel. Watch the project video on Vimeo.

In the UK we have a similar project Public Service thank you, created by ThinkPublic. Public Service Thank You!

Who would you say thank you to? I can't help but think of postmen and women... especially at this time of year!

Thanks to Cassie Robinson for sharing these sites with me!

Workshop Winner

Thinkpublic have announced the winner of the Real Work Experience initiative...Bristol! uwe

"Led by graduate designer Chris Clarke and Alex Ostrowski, the 27 strong Bristol group produced and submitted a printed book covering their ideas and experiences of the workshop – that extra mile really caught our eyes and showed a bold dedication and belief in the national scale this project can have!"

This project has been crucial in  gaining insights to the academic understanding of social design.Thinkpublic will now work with these graduates at Bristol to develop the idea into a strategic plan.

Congratulations to the Bristol team! I am very excited about the potential of the Real Work Experience...