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Designing for public sector innovation in the UK: design strategies for paradigm shifts

Daniela Sangiorgi (Senior Lecturer, ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Foresight

ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 10 August 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this work is to provide an initial picture of how some design agencies are contributing toward a paradigm shift and how they are developing in the future to better inform design policies and interdisciplinary work. There is a general agreement that the current government and public sector structure and modes of operation need radical transformation. In this scenario, a shift from New Public Management towards New Public Governance paradigm has been auspicated. Design has attracted attention as a potential approach to support this transformation, but research into Service Design, as well as discussions on its future development, for public sector innovation is limited. This paper is an exploratory study into the individual work of seven representative UK design agencies operating for and within the public sector.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reviews literature on public sector reform and innovation to inform comparative studies of contemporary design agencies working for public sector reform. Interviews with seven designers from NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, Participle, Innovation Unit, Uscreates, Collaborative Change, Futuregov and Snook are conducted to review their perceived role for public sector reform, their design approaches, exemplar projects and main challenges.

Findings

Emerging design strategies for Public Sector reform are: a collaborative design approach that considers all stakeholders as equal co-creators of public value; operating at different complementary levels to aim at systemic change; designing from the inside out (innovation culture) and outside in (market change). These different strategies imply the development of possible different business models. Existing creative tensions appear between embedding and outsourcing strategies, acting as facilitators vs designers, developing both designing and service delivery roles.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is based on a limited sample of design agencies, and it is not a systematic study into the impact of their design work, which should be the object of a following study.

Practical implications

This paper brings Service Design practice into public sector innovation debate to inform future interdisciplinary research and innovation policies. It positions existing design innovation strategies within the wider picture of public sector reform to support a more informed design practice.

Originality/value

Few studies have looked at the UK design agencies for public sector innovation and discussed their possible future developments. This paper provides an original and holistic description of design for public sector innovation with considerations on how it should be interpreted when developing supporting innovation and design policies.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Research for this article was partly funded by the Faculty of Social Sciences (FASS), Lancaster University.

Citation

Sangiorgi, D. (2015), "Designing for public sector innovation in the UK: design strategies for paradigm shifts", Foresight, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 332-348. https://doi.org/10.1108/FS-08-2013-0041

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited