The Accessibility Scotland 2019 theme was Accessibility and Ethics. Cat Macaulay @operaNomad spoke to us about how Scotland’s public sector has started to develop a shared approach to service design, why that matters, and the opportunities for exploring and advancing the accessibility agenda we have right now in Scotland.
So yeah. Again, thank you so much for the invite to be here. It’s totally kind of exciting and a privilege and an honor to be speaking today, and partly because I don’t often get to stand in a room where I’m looking around seeing lots of other visibly disabled people, which is quite a rare experience, sadly, when you work in government and in design, or at the intersection of those two things. So it’s really nice to feel in such a safe and accessible and inclusive space.
As Kevin said, I’m the Chief Design Officer at Scottish Government, which is a very fancy title, which I enjoy, because really what that title is is the kind of the representation of a whole bunch of people across government, across the public sector, in local government, and in the NHS in Scotland who have been furiously working away, particularly over the last two or three years, to really try and start to come together and solve one of the biggest problems we have as a country, and it’s certainly something that affects many people who need accessible services of various kinds, which is that we’re just pretty rubbish at designing public services still. For all of our best efforts, we just don’t get it right often enough, well enough. And even when we do get it right, it’s rare that we get it right and right for everyone.
And so what I’m going to talk about today is less the kind of technicalities of accessibility, because that is not my expertise, and I’m in a room full of experts, and I know that many of the speakers today under the lightning talks will have a lot more to teach all of us about that than I possibly could.
Rather I’m just going to try and sort of step back a bit and talk about the big picture, step back and understand where we’re at in Scotland in terms of trying to advance good public services design, and why within that accessibility and inclusion is really starting to come to the fore.
And I’m delighted to be looking around the room and seeing lots and lots of people here today who in one way or another work in the public sector, and actually maybe we could just do a bit of hands up, so if you kind of work in or for or with the public sector in any way, could you just …
And I’m not sure that would have always been the case at an event like this, and I think what it really shows is that there is a real kind of engagement in the public sector sort of design community in its broader sense, with the idea of accessibility and inclusion.
As I said, I’m the Chief Design Officer in the Scottish government. What does that mean?
Well, I do two things really.
I lead the design profession in Scottish government, and that was very, very small for a long time. It was just a handful of people.
In fact, when I joined, I think there was three or four of us. It’s growing very rapidly now, driven by a number of things in Scotland, not least the fact that we have to and we are building a social security agency for the country because we’ve had devolved to Scottish government from WK 11 of the kind of benefits that were previously deliberate or some still currently delivered by DWP (Department of Work and Pensions).
It’s not very often as a service designer you get to work on designing a new social security agency for a country from scratch, and that’s been an amazing journey for us.
I didn’t know in all of that, in that kind of shift that we’ve had in Scotland, where government itself had to really catch up with a lot of the work that’s already been happening across the NHS, across local government, in some of our public bodies, places like Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, and so on, and in our universities as well, the kind of engagement with the idea of designing a public service in its broader sense.
As I said, a couple of years ago, Scottish government started in earnest to really get its head around how we’re going to design a social security agency for the country.
What’s that going to mean? What’s that going to look like? And I would like to think not entirely because, but at least partly because one of the benefits that’s been divulged to us is the most controversial and difficult benefit of them all, PIP (Personal Independence Payment), and the remnants of DLA (Disability Living Allowance).
There was a real kind of desire on the part of government at that point to really get to grips with,
“How do we design public services well, and what does it mean to deliver an inclusive and accessible public service?”
And this was a very new kind of proposition for Scottish government.
Up until fairly recently, Scottish government had that luxury that very few governments have now, because it was quite a new government, and for a long time it’s devolved powers were fairly limited.
It didn’t really do much of the stuff that citizens don’t like. It didn’t do much directly taking money off you or deciding whether or not to give money to you.
So it was really, in essence, it was a policymaking government for its first few years. It’s only more recently it’s really had to engage with the idea of delivering services itself.
It tended to outsource that to the NHS or to local authorities or other bodies.
So when we started on that journey of thinking about, “What’s it going to be like to design a social security agency?” And to understand what it’s going to take to deliver all of these benefits, we sat there, and in the very early days it literally was a handful of people kind of scratching our heads.
And I was lucky, I’d just joined Scottish government at that point, and it was just beginning to start to think, “Oh, there’s maybe something in design and inclusion and accessibility that’s going to be useful here.”
And we were able to start talking and saying,
“Look, if we’re going to do this, we are going to have to design this. And there is no way we can’t do what Scottish government likes to pride itself on always doing, which is doing things with and not just for people. That’s going to have to change how we go about this.”
So we started launching into developing teams to work on this and thinking about what this was going to mean for us and how this was going to change how we do things, and over the last couple of years, that has grown.
So from a point maybe two years ago where people didn’t … I have teams of service designers, and it was quite difficult initially to persuade social security, because it’s risky.
This program, it’s difficult. It’s very, very challenging and it’s very kind of politically risky as well. So it was quite difficult initially to persuade people to change from their traditional ways of thinking and working, but we did and we managed to persuade them that they needed designers and they needed service designers and content designers and user researchers, and they needed to start thinking in a more designerly way. And what we managed to do was, on the back of that, connect into an existing sort of philosophy and desire in Scottish government around coproduction and co-design, which up until then had popped up in all sorts of places, but never really in anything quite as big as this.
And so what we built was a user experience panel of around … Well, it’s now over two and a half thousand people, so people with lived experience of applying for benefits, and hundreds and hundreds of other people who’ve been engaged over the last couple of years in all sorts of aspects of designing social security, and we’re designing an end to end service here.
We’re not just talking about the digital components of social security. We’re talking about the kind of heart of the entire service.
So we’ve had service users, people with lived experience of applying for benefits and receiving benefits or not receiving benefits, involved in designing that from day one.
They designed or they helped to design the legislation.
They helped to design the customer charter.
They helped to design the color of the envelopes that we send letters in.
They helped to design the digital services that they largely will initially and through their journey with us use to apply for and receive benefits.
They’re helping to inform how the social security agency, which has now been set up, because we’ve launched the first couple of benefits, they’re helping to inform how that agency thinks about how to talk to people.
They’re helping to inform how that agency thinks about what kinds of spaces it should use when it has to engage face to face with people, and they’re helping to think and challenge how we think about the whole process, for example, of assessment for PIP (Personal Independence Payment).
Thousands of people every day engaging, and what we’re starting to see now is the teams inside Scottish government really seeing and understanding and valuing the role that participants bring, users bring to that world.
And what we’re starting to see as well, and this is the bit, and I’ll come back to this later, that personally I believe is the most important reason we should do co-design.
We’re starting to see the citizens who are coming along to get involved in designing social security learning about design, and beginning to understand actually it’s quite hard, coming out of sessions and going,
“Hmm, yeah, this is a bit more complex than I understood it to be. This is hard. I can see why this is hard.”
And all of that is one of the reasons why a thing that we’ve been sort of beavering away at, really, people keep asking me,
“What is the Scottish approach to service design?”
If you asked me about a year and a half ago, I would have said it’s a phrase, a meme, an idea, and that’s about it.
Now I’d say it’s a community and a phrase and a meme and an idea, and it’s also starting to become a set of agreed principles and practices, and it’s also starting to become a desire to accelerate much, much faster across the entire public sector, how we collectively understand how to design a public service, and how we collectively commit to making sure that the people that need to use that service, and that citizens more widely have an opportunity to more directly become part of, not influence in sort of an abstract way, but actually become directly involved in the design of their services, directly involved in those decision making moments, be in the room when those things happen, be part of that process.
So one of the things that I do apart from help build that community of design professionals in Scottish government and help us understand how to use them and when to use them and where to use them, is this kind of core mission that we have, which is to really start to get Scotland to understand that if you’re going to design a public service that’s going to be usable and accessible and inclusive, you have to make sure that everyone in Scotland has a chance to be part of it.
And so for me, when I think about inclusive design, I do very much think about it in two separate ways.
I think about it in terms of, absolutely, it’s important that the services that we design and ultimately deliver are accessible and inclusive, but I actually spend much longer thinking about the way that design itself needs to become more inclusive and accessible.
Because if as a country we are really starting to commit to this idea, and if we’re truly going to start getting to the point where citizens and service users and people who may now or in the future need to use a service, are starting to get really involved in it, are starting to come along and involve themselves and design sessions, and starting to help us collaboratively sensemake the user research, which is what we do all the time now, that we produce, how are we going to make that inclusive for everyone?
Because the classic image of a designer, if you think of a photograph of a design team working, almost every single image you’ll ever see will involve a group of people pointing thoughtfully at a wall full of Post-It notes.
How is that accessible for everyone?
If you’re visually impaired, if you’re low or illiterate, if you struggle to be in a room full of people with opinions talking loudly, how’s that going to be accessible for everyone?
Because this is not a company trying to do co-design. This is a government and a country trying to co-design things that are the heart of our democracy.
The decisions we make about what services we offer or don’t, the decisions we make about how we offer those services. Those things are absolutely mission critical, democratic meat and potatoes.
We don’t tend to think of them like that. We tend to think of democracy and politics as being about the bits and all the stuff that’s happening down south right now.
We think about it in those big, broad political terms, but actually for all of us in our lives day to day, our biggest kind of day to day engagement with the democratic decisions we’ve made as a country is when we access, or don’t, can’t access public services.
They’re the kind of visible, concrete realization of political will, of democratic decisions.
We need to make sure that people are involved in designing services.
That is now understood in Scotland and is growing very rapidly, but we can’t go about that if we’re not absolutely committed to making sure that when we do those things, when design is happening, and design decisions are being made, that everyone can be in that room, that everyone can participate.
And that’s kind of the heart of what we’ve been trying to do, is get the public sector to understand this, that it’s really important that we commit to this, and then get design itself to understand the ways that we do design are not inclusive and they’re not accessible.
Too many of our methods exclude too many people for us to be able to comfortably use them. We have to change those.
So we’re on that journey within Scottish government but also with our colleagues across the public sector in all sorts of different organizations and parts of the public sector, and this is really important, because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in the sort of five years having not really worked in the public sector, certainly in the UK, before joining Scottish government, most of my experience was in academic research or private sector research and design environments, it took me a little while, but over the last two to three years I’ve really started to kind of understand from a design point of view what kind of real problem at the heart of all of this is in the public sector.
And so for this, I’m just going to tell you a little story, and this is from real research that we did a couple of years ago.
So one day, let’s just imagine a couple.
They’re quite comfortable in their lives.
They have a business that’s doing okay, got money in the bank.
They own their own home outright. They’re the kind of people that very rarely have ever in their lives had to encounter the state other than occasionally voting and paying taxes.
They don’t really understand how the system works, how the public sector works, and one day they wake up and one of them is life changingly ill.
Now, these are people going through something that will have happened to many of us, in our families or ourselves.
It’s a really difficult and stressful situation, and they all commit the cardinal error almost all of us make under those circumstances, and the thing that almost all public sector design initiatives forget, which is that when you go through something like that, cortisol, stress, you’re deeply stressed, chronically stressed usually.
Cortisol is flowing through your body.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, and it impacts your ability to cognitively function.
You’re effectively cognitively disabled when when you’re experiencing consistent stress, which means that it doesn’t matter who you are and what your cognitive functioning is before.
Now, you can’t absorb and understand information as well as you could before.
You can’t make decisions as well as you could before. Somebody in a life changing situation who’s also struggling with a challenge to their sense of themselves and their identity and is effectively cognitively disabled has to cope with what’s happened to them, and what happens in those situations, of course, is that these are complex and they need lots of different things.
The problem that you’re trying to resolve there is not a simple need.
Sometimes, especially in the government design sector, because certainly initially a lot of the services that we worked on were quite simple transactional services or informational services.
Applying for a passport or driving license. Fairly straightforward stuff.
We kind of talk about user needs a lot, but we forget that in the kind of environments where the challenges really exist for society and for the state and the public purse is not people who are struggling to apply for a driving license.
It’s when you wake up one day and your partner is life changingly ill, because what’s happening to you is not a need situation.
It’s a big problem, and it has lots of needs underneath it that need to be resolved.
And the public sector then does something really mean, because it kind of makes it difficult, even more difficult for you to understand all of that, because most of those needs will be delivered by different organizations.
So from a design point of view, from a service design point of view in particular, if we think about the journey, the service journey that somebody needs to go through to resolve that problem, that’s a very complex journey with lots of needs.
A very complex journey with lots of needs delivered by different organisations.
So there you are waking up that morning, and you’ve got to figure all this out.
You’ve got to understand what you need.
You’ve got to figure out where you’re going to get it.
You’ve got to fight your way through the morass of the public sector, while you’re going through this horrible thing and you’re cognitively disabled.
It’s not surprising that we have reams of evidence about what happens when the system effectively fails, when people tip into crisis, fall through the cracks.
It’s hugely distressing and traumatic for people in already difficult situations, but it’s also enormously costly for the state.
It’s where the bulk of the cost to public services comes from. It’s people in those kinds of situations.
And at the moment, because we effectively don’t design service journeys around users and their needs and their lives and their problems, we design them around how the public sector is structured.
Each organization that’s part of what I would regard as a single service journey will design their bit of it, and often, and in fact almost always, they’ll design their bit of it blind to what else is going on around that journey and unable to even know or understand who else, what other organizations should be part of their conversation, in order to do the right thing for this person.
And even if they did do that, they all have a different approach.
They all have different ways of going about design.
They use different methods and tools, and they talk about things in different ways, and some of these organizations will be very large, they’ll be parts of the NHS. Some of them will be very small.
They’ll be a tiny third sector organisation.
They’re all mission critical to resolving that problem, but they don’t have the same sort of level of ability to do their bit, to think about and design their bit equally well, let alone do that together so that it’s seamless and people don’t fall through the cracks.
The trouble with public services is that we don’t design public services currently most of the time.
Most of the time what we’re designing is a bit of a public service, because my organization is responsible for that bit.
So we need to try and challenge this and get away from that, and we need to get organisations to think about this and understand that and work together, and I’m really pleased to be able to stand here today, because if I was doing this a year ago, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as excited and confident as I am, but I’m really pleased to say that I spend most of my working life at the moment flitting between government, large public bodies, third sector organisations, the NHS and local authorities talking about this, because we’re working on trying to get it happening. We’re sharing and co-designing the Scottish approach to these services now in a really concrete way.
We have people using those ideas when they recruit design teams into their organisations.
We have people coming to us and helping. In fact, the Scottish Enterprise team are in the room who came just just the other week with a version of the playbook that we’ve published. Over there, yeah.
Of the playbook we’ve published for the Scottish approach, which we developed with a wide range of other organisations across all those key public sector parts, Scottish central government, local government, NHS, public bodies.
And they noticed it was really nicely written from the point of view, or in fact entirely written from the point of view of you’re designing a service for a person.
They design services that are more in the kind of business to business space, organisation to organisation space, so they went and rewrote the playbook for that context and brought it to us.
That’s all starting to happen, so that initiative is really starting to move, but it’s still difficult for organizations do this, and we are furiously working at getting the next level of breakthrough, which is that we’re able to share those resources more effectively and start to work across the system more effectively.
But there’s still a kind of issue at the heart of all of this, and it’s why the Scottish Approach to Service Design Playbook, which was written with a bunch of organisations and ourselves, and it’s out there now, basically all it’s saying is, “These are our principles.”
“We commit to this. We want to do this. We understand this is a problem and we’re going to try as a country to sort this out.”
And the essence of the principles are,
“We will work with people, not for them. We will design things with people. We will share and reuse. We will design public service journeys and not our bit of public service journeys. We will work towards making that a thing, making that happen.”
But this is the most important principle in there for me.
“We use inclusive, accessible research and design methods so everyone can participate in design if they want to.”
Because again, as I said, if our offer to the people of Scotland is,
“Come and help us design our public service services as long as you look like this, as long as you’re literate, as long as you’re not visually impaired, as long as you live within sort of half an hour of these cities, as long as you’re not poor, as long as you’ve not spent your entire life in and out of institutions and have zero trust in authority, in the system, and feel angry and let down. Everyone else, yeah, come and help us do that,”
then we’ll fail.
We won’t solve the problems we’re trying to solve. We won’t get there if that’s where we’re at.
So what we’re really pushing on and where we’re kind of excited about the engagement we’re getting from the accessibility and inclusive design communities around the place is that we are really starting to do this now, so we’ve got a project about to launch where we’re just basically saying, “Right. Collaborative sense making is one of our most simple and important methods.
If you do user research by deciding what to research, deciding how to research it, during the research, bringing the data back home, analyzing it yourself, well, you get what you get.
You get your understanding of the problem and your view of your understanding of what you think people told you about the problem.”
And one of the easiest ways to challenge and improve the usefulness and the robustness of user research is to say,
“Hey, different people, including users, come and have a look at this and help us make sense of it too,” so that we’ve got that inbuilt challenge in the process that allows us to really think again, “Is that what that really meant?”
And, “Did I ask the right question?” And, “Is that a robust conclusion to draw from all of that?”
Collaborative sense making is a fantastic technique, but right now it’s really difficult to do it inclusively.
So we’re starting a project to say, “Right, let’s figure out how to do that. What’s it going to take? What’s it going to look like when you’ve got a collaborative sense making session with a mixed group of people, one of whom is deaf-blind?
What’s it going to look like when you’ve got a collaborative sense making session with a mixed group of people, one of whom is an angry, isolated 16 year old with functional illiteracy because they’ve spent the last six and seven years in and out of care homes and institutions?”
And it’s a big challenge, and we’re committed to making this happen, and we’re committed to doing this because we absolutely see now the power of having service users in the room when we’re doing design.
We see that as government and we see that as the public sector.
So this all sounds great. We’re all heading the right direction, and of course it’s hard. Of course it’s incredibly difficult. We’re in a difficult environment politically. We’re in a difficult environment economically. And I mentioned earlier on that for me, there’s another kind of aspect of getting citizens involved in services over and above it’s good common sense.
You design better when you have your service users involved with you, and deeply.
But the other reason is that frankly, we live in such scary and difficult times, and the level of problem that we have to solve now in society, if we thought endemic poverty, if we thought the kind of ridiculous levels of maltreatment of people of various kinds, including disabled people, if we thought that the fact that social mobility has ground to a halt were big problems, climate change, populism, the fall of democracy, you know, we’re facing in to some challenges that we’ll need solutions that we currently are in no way equipped anywhere really as societies to tackle.
And one of the things that you see when you start to do a lot, like levels of engagement of service users in design that we’re starting to see in social security, for example, in Scotland, is that people are really starting to go, “Wait a minute. This isn’t about me coming into the room and telling you what I want, and then being pissed off because you don’t give it to me.
This is really hard and challenging and I need to help think this through. I need to start to think about how we solve these problems together.”
And this is one of the most important aspects of what we’re trying to achieve with the Scottish approach.
If we get really brilliant at design, even really brilliant at co-design, it will get us so far, but it’s not going to tip us over into really solving some of these big, challenging problems.
What we need is for those service users, those citizens to also start to get really engaged with this, and by bringing them in like this, we can give people that real challenge around,
“How do we collectively solve these problems?”
“How do you tell the state what you want and then wait for it to not give it to you, and then get angry?”
How do we collectively come together and start to think about problem solving a different way?
Human beings are just really bad at solving problems, for all sorts of reasons, not least of which kindness.
We just see a problem, we dive in and we want to solve it.
Design at its best is in essence just a set of techniques to fight the human instinct to solve other people’s problems too quickly.
A set of techniques to remind us that whilst in terms of sort of our day to day existence, it’s quite convenient to imagine that we all broadly think the same, it gets you through the day a little bit more easily, in reality that’s not true, and we don’t all think the same, and we don’t all value or understand things in the same way or think about things in the same way.
And our life experiences will direct us towards very different patterns and ways of approaching things.
So design in essence is just that, and again, you can see why the kind of inclusion and accessibility issue comes in here, because it is about really starting to value and respect difference, and other people’s ways of being, and be able to negotiate, and discuss, and collaborate, and compromise, and do all those things you need to do if you’re actually going to make a good design decision and solve a problem.
So what we really need to do, if we can get every public service in the country engaging citizens at the scale that we’re doing it now in social security, and it’s thousands of people now, thousands every year of people coming in and working with us in all sorts of different ways on that program, if that’s happening everywhere all the time, and if we do that in a way that we’re actually really starting to talk more openly about design, stripping out all the kind of professional nonsense and just saying, “It’s hard.”
There’s kind of professional skillsets of design, which are great, and they’re useful, and they need to be in the system, but there’s another bit of design, which is just, it’s a different way of thinking about how you solve problems.
It’s a way of thinking about how you solve problems, which is rooted in an acceptance of the fact that we’re rubbish at solving problems.
Look around us. Humanity is manifestly not very well equipped for solving problems.
We need some tools and techniques to help us do this better, and if we’re doing that, that’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people every year potentially engaged in design and learning a little bit about design, and that’s going to change the quality of the country’s relationship with the state, and it’s going to change how we are able collectively to come together and start to think about and solve problems, to get away from the frankly kind of juvenile, “You’re bad. I hate you. Oh god, you are too demanding. We can’t help you,” impasse that we’re currently in the public sector.
And again, this is for me where if you look around the work that so many people in the accessibility and inclusive design communities do, that so many people in the disability community do, understanding and valuing difference, learning to work together and create different solutions to things that actually respect those differences and enable everyone to live together and work together and exist together in a more fair way, that’s really going to start to drive change in the country.
And that is where we’re at, really.
A lot of people I know in the design community get a bit snitty about the Double Diamond model of design, which the design council came up with a few years ago, which just drives me nuts, because it was never proposed as a model of design.
Of course it’s not. Don’t be ridiculous.
The thing that I’ve used, I mean, my eyes should bleed looking at it now because I’ve used this for the last two and a half years almost every day, when I’m sitting talking to the board of a public sector body, or a senior leader in the civil service, or a senior leader in the NHS, or a design team in local authority, to make the point that we’re rubbish at solving problems, because the Double Diamond, all it’s trying to say is,
“Spend as long thinking about the problem, understanding the problem, as you spend solving the problem because if you don’t, you’re more likely to go wrong.”
Almost always, we start right in the middle of that double diamond.
We start after the problem should have been defined really well, and thought about, and understood.
Not to say that you ever get to a full definition of a problem.
Of course you don’t, but you can get to a lot less bad one if you spend longer in that space.
And so pushing that out and getting people to think about that and connecting into the ways that the accessibility community, the disability community have started to really learn, and this is one of things we’re working very closely with disabled people’s organizations in Scotland, for example, on redesigning design methods, because a lot of that work’s already been done in different contexts.
It’s been done around community engagement.
It’s currently happening around participatory budgeting, so we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to figure out how to adapt that for the particular methods that we use.
But if we can get this working, we have a fighting chance to start really helping us all think better about problems.
I don’t know how many people in the room have had the misfortunate like I’ve had of having to go through applying for DLA (Disability Living Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment), which ranks right up there …
I can’t think of a worst experience I’ve ever had in my life, and I spent quite a lot of my twenties working in a war zone.
If you were in the room when that politician and that policymaker were sitting, bouncing around the idea that,
“Oh, do you know, I’ve heard that it’s really hard to be disabled, and it’s really expensive.”
And that couple of people just sat there going,
“You know, we should do something about that, because that’s horrible. We’ll do something about that. Let’s give them some money. That’s great. Give him some money.”
A couple of years later,
“It’s getting expensive. Better do something about that.”
If you’d been in that room that day as a designer, the first question you would have asked was,
“Is that the problem? Is the fact that it’s expensive to be disabled the problem, or is that the symptom?”
And if you’d help to make some decisions about how we go about tackling problems, would the only solution you’d have offered been,
“Give them a bit more money?”
Been the one that you think you’d have come up with?
Because I’m pretty sure it’s not. I’m pretty sure we would have all thought,
“Could we just not make it not expensive to be disabled? Could we solve that stuff?”
Sorry, I’m getting waved at, which probably means I’m right at time? Oh, no? Okay. I don’t know why I’m being waved at.
Nevermind. Is it a question? Can you hear me? No? Okay. Sorry.
I am checking time actually, because I was saying to Kevin, I have a sweet spot for talks and it’s about 10 minutes or three and a half hours. Anything in between that I’m just no good at all right. I’m all right, am I?
It’s all good.
I’m almost at the end, you’ll be pleased to hear.
So that’s what we’re trying to do in Scotland.
Now, we are a tiny, wee country that already has a political commitment to participate in a participatory democracy that already has a lot of experience in different aspects, not necessarily in the design of public services itself, but around things like community planning, community engagement and so on, and have a lot of experience of doing this.
We really want to be a country where we design things with and not for.
Our national performance framework in Scotland, at the heart of it, it says,
“We don’t just measure our performance as a country by our GDP. We measure it by the wellbeing of our people. We measure it by how much we value each other, by how much kindness we exhibit towards each other.”
There aren’t many governments, if any, I think, I think there’s probably one, actually, whose national performance framework published right at the heart said,
“Our value is we nurture and respect and treat each other kindly.”
And I don’t know that there are many public servants who had the experience I did a couple of years ago of having a note coming down from your cabinet secretary to say,
“See, when you design the social security service, just make sure that we treat the customers of that service with dignity and respect.”
And then have to sit and spend quite a long time thinking,
“How do you design dignity and respect into a service?”
And that’s what we’ve been doing, and the feedback we’ve had from the early benefits has been really good.
We’re under no illusions that this is really hard and we’ll continue to struggle with it, but I can vouch for the fact, because the head of the teams that are doing a lot of this work from the design side in social security, and I myself am heavily involved in that program, that we think about that every day, every day, the idea that we have to design a service with dignity and respect at its heart, is right there in the middle of how we think and how we work.
And that is why involving people is so important to us, because we can’t do that and be confident of that if we’re not working with citizens to make those decisions.
So I’ve strayed a little bit out of the kind of accessibility and inclusive design space, I know, but I wanted to take this opportunity because I’ve got a room full of amazing people who work, and for me, what is the kind of heart of what we’re trying to do, that idea that you should never deliver a service that excludes people unnecessarily, you should never produce something with a value, it says, as long as we get 80% and we don’t really bother about that lot, it’s okay.
That’s the heart of what we’re trying to achieve, in essence, with The Scottish Approach to Service Design, is to say that we should be producing public services that are fit for purpose.
Of course, they do the job, they solve the problem they’re meant to solve with the least amount of pain for everyone involved, but also that they do that in a way that is fully inclusive and accessible, because if one person is left behind in a democracy, that’s one person too many.
And so we’d really like to kind of appeal to you, help us do this, because at the heart of our challenge is if we can’t figure out how to make design methods inclusive and accessible, we’ll fail.
So if you’re working in this space and want to kind of get involved and help us, if you’re on Twitter, then unfortunately I’m not a marketing person, so when we started this, we just called it The Scottish Approach to Service Design, because civil servants in Scottish government had a philosophy called the Scottish Approach to Government and I was trying to explain to them why design connected to how they thought, so I connected the two things and it stuck.
So we now have the world’s worst hashtag #SATSD.
That trips off the tongue. SATSD.
Unfortunately it’s not a great hashtag, but click on that on Twitter, and followers, get involved.
Anybody around who’s using that hashtag will be happy to talk to you, I’m sure.
Try and learn about what we’re doing, but more importantly, come and help us do this, because if you care about your public services, and I know you do, if you care about services being accessible and inclusive, then you’ve now got a chance to help us make sure that we’ve got the right approach to designing things that allows everyone to get involved in that design process, and we need you.
We can’t do this by ourselves.
We have to make those methods and those tools and those ideas and ways of working fully inclusive and accessible, and we have to do it now.
We can’t sit around for another three years scratching our heads and figuring this out.
So please come and help us.
Please offer us advice.
Please criticize us.
We’re all designers.
We love a crit.
We’re not civil servants.
Well, we are, but we’re not.
But help us, push us, challenge us, but make this a thing, because we do actually have an opportunity in this country to tip this over.
We’re teaching on the edge right now of the NHS, local authorities and Scottish government coming together around this in a really strong and significant way, but if we get that happening without being inclusive and accessible in how we go about this, then we’re going to be in trouble and we’re going to fail.
We’re going to fail out, so we’re going to fail the people that we all work for and represent.
So please challenge us, ask us questions, tell us we’re wrong.
Come and help us, but please do that.
You have the skills and the knowledge that we need to make this a thing.
And I think … Look at that. 45 minutes. Perfect. Okay. I’m going to stop now.