Design for Public Good Featured

30 April 2013
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On 30th April, members of the SEE Platform (Sharing Experience Europe) published a new report, Design for Public Good, encouraging the European Union and its member states to adopt design-led innovation to create the next generation of public services and policy that can meet the pressing demands of the future.

The report, authored by the UK Design Council, Danish Design Centre, Design Wales and Aalto University, Finland and with a joint foreword by UK Minister David Willetts (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) and Danish Minister Annette Vilhelmsen (Ministry of Business and Growth) - looks at the potentially huge gains design methodology can bring to policymaking as well as services. Design for Public Good describes the key benefits of design thinking for government as follows:

- Design-led innovation is a joined-up process, with no inefficient handover from analysis to solution to implementation

- Rather than jumping straight to expensive and risky pilots, the design process tests iteratively, starting with low-cost, simple models (prototypes) and designing out risk with each new version

- Rather than disjointedly patching together incremental solutions as problems arise, design thinking looks at the entire system to redefine the problem from the ground up

- Design thinking starts by understanding user needs in order to ensure solutions are appropriate, waste is avoided and end users buy into them

- While the factors that cause silo structures in government may be stubborn, design methods offer uniquely effective ways of understanding which teams and departments are relevant to a problem and engaging them in collaborations

In other words, design has evolved from being an add-on into a fully joined-up innovation methodology. Design Council and its partners argue that, with countries around the world adopting this thinking, the European Union cannot afford to be left behind.  Furthermore, with a strong track record of pioneering work from several of its member states, it has a chance to lead the field and create a sustainable, thriving public sector even in a time of crisis.

The UK government’s new digital service,, this year’s recipient of the Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award, is one of a number of best-practice examples from the UK, Denmark and Finland that make up the report’s case studies. These are structured using a new tool, the Public Sector Design Ladder, which divides projects into three categories:

1. Design for discrete problems – designers are hired for one-off jobs
2. Design as capability – design becomes part of the culture of public sector organisations
3. Design for policy – design is used at the highest levels to help create policy

The argument is that, in order to reach step 3, with its potentially massive efficiency gains, one must go through the previous two steps – which also offer benefits. The report recommends that the European Commission should promote use of the ladder and fund work on developing it. It also urges the European Commission to promote design by embedding it in its own working methods. This should not be a sudden or expensively engineered change but should start small, gradually building the evidence base without major risk.

The Rt Hon David Willetts:
“Design is a source of competitive advantage and can help organisations transform their performance. That is why design forms an integral part of the UK Government’s plans for innovation and growth.

Design has the potential to meet the pressing needs of the present, but also to help governments achieve wider long-term aims of growth and quality of life for their citizens … With governments around the world beginning to recognise it, it is a capability Europe cannot afford to ignore.”

Link to download document:

Contact BEDA  Koloniënstraat 56, 1000 Brussels (Belgium) t. (+32) 2 217 39 77  f. (+32) 2 217 99 72
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