Leadership Conference – Academy launch


Below content courtesy of Open Change



The UNESCO City of Design Academy was a one day Leadership workshop for Dundee City Council. The event was held in June 2016 at Discovery Quay, Dundee. Service Design agency Open Change introduced a range of Service Design methods to enable 70 leaders from across Dundee City Council to explore how the outcomes of citizens of Dundee, the UK’s only UNESCO City of Design could be improved by creative service redesign. The event built on pilot workshops run in 2015 for the Dundee UNESCO City of Design team.


A Service Design approach helps us understand people’s needs and generate and test ideas for new services. Service design uses methods from design, business and sociology to understand current experiences and design better future experiences. Service design is widely used by business and in the public sector to improve and design new services.


We introduced a range of design methods including design thinking, visualisation, personas, idea generation and customer journey mapping. Fast and inspiring talks on making change happen were given by:

• Andy Robertson, founder of social enterprise, Hot Chocolate
• Gillian Easson, Director of Creative Dundee
• Rod Mountain, Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant and founder of Healthcare, Designed in Dundee (video)



Eleven new service proposals were pitched from multi-disciplinary teams from across services. These ranged from a city centre drug and alcohol support centre to a new responsive social media strategy to create conversations with citizens.

A number of these ideas will be selected to be further developed and tested with resources allocated, including service design support from Open Change.

All the proposals are outlined and illustrated on the following pages.

A further significant outcome is building a leadership community with the capacity
to use service design methods.

Perhaps the most important outcome, as evidenced in feedback from the session, is the overwhelmingly positive mindset of the leadership group – from embracing the opportunities that a design-led approach offers, to a commitment to bring service users into the design and development of services.

Tomorrow I will design the future



The Design Council’s Double Diamond framework of Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver underpins the design process with a range of service design methods introduced at appropriate stages.

The diamonds represent the opening up divergent thinking processes to discover how things currently operate before using convergent thinking to define problems to be addressed. Thinking becomes divergent again when considering multiple solutions, before converging on solutions to be prototyped and tested. This staged process allows time for reflection and iteration – rather than scrambling towards a ‘solutioneering’ approach where surface issues are ‘solved’ but the underlying issues remain.


In the one day workshop, we walked through the discover, define, develop and deliver framework. In practice the process is less linear than the model suggests – it is an iterative process, with the steps being revisited.

It is important to develop multiple ideas before making a decision on which ideas to test with users – otherwise one idea is championed – usually the one chosen by the most senior person or person with the loudest voice. Having lots of ideas allows some ideas to ‘fail’ – if there is only one idea – it will get pushed through, even when evidence suggests it will not work. Once a service is rolled out there should still be scope for refining in use, to incorporate ‘user hacks’ and iron out service kinks.


What is Design Thinking?

There’s a shift under way in large organizations, one that puts design much closer to the centre of the enterprise. But the shift isn’t about aesthetics. It’s about applying the principles of design to the way people work.

This new approach is in large part a response to the increasing complexity of modern
technology and modern business. Sometimes the problem being tackled is itself multifaceted: Think about how much tougher it is to reinvent a health care delivery system than to design a shoe. And sometimes the business environment is so volatile that a company must experiment with multiple paths in order to survive.

I could list a dozen other types of complexity that businesses grapple with every day. But here’s what they all have in common: People need help making sense of them. Specifically, people need their interactions with technologies and other complex systems to be simple, intuitive, and pleasurable.

A set of principles collectively known as design thinking—empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them—is the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.

Jon Kolko, Harvard Business Review, 2015


Service Safari

A service safari lets you see the world with fresh eyes.
The eleven teams spent time in Dundee city centre: observing, talking to people and gathering insights around their selected theme.
Teams were provided with safari kits containing a Design Ethnography guide, pens and sticky notes and a series of questions to consider:


  • What are the key themes and issues emerging?
  • What are the barriers and challenges?
  • What was the situation in the past? How has it changed?
  • What surprising insights are emerging?
  • How have your assumptions been challenged?




We use visuals as one of our primary ways of understanding the world – we are naturally good at imagining the future using images.

Visualising allows multiple perspectives to be input at the same time, giving a sense of ownership, enabling people to share stories and outcomes.


Based on a method developed by Ole Qvist-Sørensen – we had teams using visualisation techniques straight away.


Team Forming

Participants were asked in advance to put forward issues that they felt were key areas for attention.

These were distilled into the following themes:

  • Supporting People into Employment
  • Inclusion
  • Attainment
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Poverty
  • Health Inequalities
  • Digital Council

Eleven multidisciplinary teams formed around the themes using a ‘human bar chart’ resulting in three teams working on attainment, two on inclusion, two on supporting people into employment and one each on drugs and alcohol, digital council and poverty.




Personas are a series of fictitious, anonymous and believable characters created to represent different groups of people.

Each persona is based on interviewing real people and bringing together their characteristics, experiences and needs to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ solution.


Customer Journey Mapping

Customer Journey Maps show services/experiences visually from the clients’ point of view. They can be used to map current services and areas where opportunities exist for improvements or to plan future services.
Journey maps can vary in detail and complexity. As a rule, the steps a person takes can be broken down simply into 5 key stages:


At each key stage, there are a range of steps and a variety of routes that a user can take.

Thinking through each of these steps helps to build an engaging experience for the visitor. It also highlights where things are missing or not ‘joined up’. Customer journey maps can be expanded into Service Blueprints We combined journey mapping with creating a new service proposal – including identifying:

  • Why the service is needed
  • What it is
  • How it works
  • Who benefits


Idea Generation

There are many tools available to generate ideas, helping out aside the issues that constrain thinking – from brainstorming to Six Hats Thinking.

In the workshop we used the NESTA Fast Idea Generator to challenge traditional thinking patterns.



Leadership Conference Report

In addition to the above information, you can see details of the new services proposed, feedback from the event, resources and further reading in the following report:

Leadership Design Academy Conference Report

Workshop Facilitators

Hazel White, Mike Press, Linsey McIntosh, Taylor Stillie, Ummi Jameel, Megan McKee

Photo Credits

Kathryn Rattray






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