Service Design is a multi-disciplinary, innovative field that helps organisations see their services from a customer perspective. Organisations across the world are increasingly recognising the value of service design in putting people at the heart of thoughtfully designed activities, processes and experiences.


Purposefully designed services put the needs of the people who use them first - and are easier to use, access and deliver.

“This has completely transformed how we do everything.”

Head of Organisation and Development,
Local Government.


Talking to service users, observing them, walking in their shoes and seeking to understand what your service means to them is vital - for everyone in an organisation. Without exception.

That is certainly what the UK Government believes. John Waterworth is Head of user research at the Government Digital Service, and Head of the user research community across government. He says this:


“There’s good evidence that the best way to improve the design of a service is to make sure that every team member gets to watch real people talking about the service and trying out the team’s designs.


“One simple aim can transform not only the way people work as a team but also the product they’re working on. Do you want to know the secret? Exposure hours.


“We’ve encouraged all the exemplar teams to get their ‘exposure hours’ and we’ve seen the value time and again.


“Teams quickly develop a greater empathy for their users. They know how the service fits into users’ lives. They learn the language that real people use to describe aspects of the service. They understand users’ frustrations and joys.”


Janet Hughes is the senior Civil Servant responsible for project delivery (reforming children’s social care, building new schools, etc) in the UK Department of Education. She says this:

“As part of this work, I’d really like to help and encourage people working on major projects to work more openly, blogging about what they’re working on and what they’re learning.


“This is important because it helps us connect with other people who are working on similar challenges, builds trust and confidence in the work we’re doing and generally makes things better.”


Working in the open is a principle first developed in the tech sector that is beginning to transform how government works, across both UK and Scotland national and local government.


The goals of working in the open are to increase participation and smart collaboration, to improve organisational agility, to increase momentum for new viable ideas and initiatives, to iterate and refine as we go, and to leverage greater impact from fixed resources.


According to James Pallister from Essex County Council:


“The idea is if we share your work as we go, we can get feedback on it and quickly get a sense of whether what we’re doing is going to be useful to the everyday person in the street. It’s the opposite of building something in isolation, waiting for the big reveal to find out whether it’s a winner or a dud.


“At first working in the open can feel a bit exposing and take a little getting used to. That’s normal. What’s worth remembering, is that this approach is tried and tested, and it’s been shown to be a good way of quickly making services better for citizens. Which is good news for everyone.”

Working in the open is widely seen as a way to accelerate change across organisations. It involves using blogs, social media, video and open events to open up processes and ideas. It allows best practices to be replicated and scaled, along with solutions to challenges and failures. Reusing digital strategies, standards, and open source code also reduces costs and helps different parts of the public and third sectors coordinate, accelerate change, and support each other.


Working in the open is also symbolically vital. It demonstrates a different approach in which work colleagues are trusted and empowered. According to the Canadian Government “This symbolic change was felt to be critical not just for earning the credibility and social licence needed to drive change, but also to attract and retain new and dynamic types of talent.”


Here are some resources to get you started.

Where to start if you want to start blogging.

Why we do show and tells.