7-9 March 2018

John McIntyre Conference Centre, Edinburgh

Design for democracy - exploring the politics of service design in Scotland

Session type:
Case Study

Session duration:
60 minutes

Presented by:

Mike Press

Open Change

Hazel White

Open Change

About this Case Study

Since devolution in 1999, a distinctive Scottish approach to government has evolved that is a consequence of the country’s relative small size, the close-knit networks of public sector and third sector bodies that deliver services, and progressive traditions of Scotland's political culture. As Scotland’s confidence as a devolved nation has further grown, not to mention its experience of managing devolved government, so the government has clarified the Scottish approach in terms of 3 broad principles:

  1. Improvement in public services, with an emphasis on encouraging practitioners to work locally in developing new initiatives, and an emphasis on experimentation.
  2. Focusing on people’s ‘assets’ rather than ‘deficits’, thereby emphasising people’s potential to address local problems and develop collective resilience and mutual support.
  3. Co-production of services using models of innovation that bring users and producers together, again with an emphasis on local initiative.
It is very significant that during this very period when Scotland has been finding its own approach to government based on localism and service innovation, we have witnessed the flowering of service design both internationally and especially in Scotland, where companies like Snook and Nile pioneered new approaches to service design innovation, in many cases in the public sector, Snook pursuing an explicitly socially progressive agenda. We were involved in establishing the first postgraduate course in service design, and latterly through Open Change have worked in the public sector for the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland, and local government.

In Scotland we are now seeing a fascinating and unique landscape of social and political innovation where the aspirations of democratic devolution and socially-engaged service design have combined to create the following:

  • The Scottish Approach to Service Design: a Scottish Government initiative that aims to embed service design within all levels of national and local government.
  • The Scottish Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-2018, published in September 2017, explicitly places service design at the heart of policy making.
  • Dundee City Council is one of the first cities in the world to adopt city values on design, including how design will “promote social justice and inclusion… (and) involve our communities in collaboratively designing services and solutions”.
  • Realistic Medicine: the policy of NHS Scotland as developed by the Chief Medical Officer that places shared decision making and innovation at the heart of the policy.
Our presentation will begin with an outline of Scotland’s approach to government, followed by a summary of recent practices and initiatives that demonstrate how service design has furthered and contributed to this more participatory and inclusive approach.

We will then develop a framework for understanding the relationship between service design and the real politics of government in Scotland. We will suggest the implications that this has for training and education in service design, and draw out lessons that can be learned internationally for the contributions that service design can make - not just to innovating the services provided by government - but to redesigning the very nature of government and democracy itself.

About the Speakers

Mike Press

Mike Press is Director of Open Change and is Emeritus Professor of Design Policy at the University of Dundee. A leading specialist in design management and the application of design to social policy, he has written key texts on these subjects that have been translated into Russian, Spanish and Mandarin. He was joint director of the Home Office's Design Against Crime project from 1999 to 2005 and is a former Chair of the European Academy of Design. He has been research advisor to a number of UK universities, and has undertaken consultancy for universities in Europe and North America. Open Change is one of the partners in the Service Design Academy.


Hazel White

Hazel White is the director of Open Change and leads on strategy and facilitation. She has 25 years' experience in design practice, research and education including setting up one of the world's first postgraduate courses in service design. She currently delivers a programme on Change by Design to 120 Queen’s Young Leaders through the University of Cambridge. She has delivered creative workshops for a range of clients that include the Dasman Diabetes Institute in Kuwait, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Public Pensions Agency, Dundee City Council and a range of business and third sector organisations to help them find problems worth solving. In addition to supporting organisations, she writes on prototyping, co-design and the value of design-led approaches to innovation. Open Change has been awarded V&A Dundee Design Champion status.


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Service Design in Health

This session is part of our SDinHealth theme - exploring the challenges, opportunities and trends in service design for the health sector.