Service design and localism
I’ve been doing a bit of thinking recently about a approaches to service design in local government in the light of the government’s localism or Big Society agenda.
The way I see it there should be a balance between the following elements:
Let’s face it, business strategy in local government is primarily about cost cutting right now either through streamlining of business processes, use of cheaper channels, selling / transferring assets and working in partnership.
Listening to local communities and working with them to co-produce better public services and outcomes is one of the cornerstones of localism.
Customer insight and open data
This to me is the really interesting element in the triangle. Customer insight is data about what different customer groups want and need, what services they already use and what channels they prefer using. Data can be gathered from channel usage statistics and customer research. Open data is all about transparency and making data about council services, assets, performance and spending accessible.
Once data is out there in the open, it can be used to tell stories, which make it more meaningful. In turn this can stimulate ideas and provide new perspectives on how to deliver services.
So how might this model work in practise? If all three elements of the triangle are brought together:
- Councils would need to clearly define the constraints – i.e. what cuts they have to make and where – and work with partners to explore new ways of working together to deliver public services
- Communities, council officers, councillors, partner agencies and other stakeholders will come together in public networks, online or offline, to discuss how they want services to be delivered
- Data will inform conversations and underpin decisions
Let’s assume in an ideal world that service design is an iterative process, whereby services are analysed, prototyped, tested and improved continually. Ideally each element in this model should be considered at all stages of an iterative process, to make sure one element is not dominant over the others. If business strategy dominates services may not meet community needs and if democratic engagement dominates services may be designed around more vocal groups within the community.
I’m not sure what the impact might be of data being a dominant element in service design. Or if it matters. This is just a way for me to think through service design and localism and I’d be interested in what anyone else involved in service re-design in local government thinks.
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