Voices from Eurasia
Reinventing public services has to start with the user
21 Oct 2014 by Nana Tsiklauri and Sesili Verdzadze, UNDP Georgia
Only by incremental experiments, with an eye on effectiveness and putting the end-users at the heart of the design process, can we truly hope to transform public services to meet our citizens’ needs.
Transforming public services to meet the true expectations of the citizens and create public value is indisputably a challenge.
The question is how to prototype, test, and scale up public services in response to this challenge?
This is one of the key questions that the Public Service Development Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia (PSDA) has taken on during the last couple of months, together with UNDP.
We were inspired by the UK’s experience in service design, especially as it comes to government-driven innovations, coupled with progress made by other European and Asian countries in design-led innovation in the public sector.
So we’re taking things further too:
Our agency is setting up the first Innovative Service Lab in Georgia with a focus on rethinking public services.
A small team of PSDA employees is now striving to engage citizens and businesses in co-designing new solutions.
This group of public sector professionals is ready to experiment, and turn the public services upside down in order to deliver user-centric, innovative services to their citizens while at the same timeembedding this approach within the government.
Our innovation team in action
As part of a three-day workshop on design thinking and policy making, organized with support fromUNDP and in partnership with FutureGov, our innovation team decided to tackle one of the key issues the agency is currently working on: electronic identification cards.
An essential element of this initiative is the introduction of the website which will serve as a main source of information for the electronic ID card users, including both citizens and business organizations.
To accomplish the task, lab members decided to perform the action outside of the lab and experiment with different website prototypes, in order to test them with potential users.
The resultant outcomes were really inspiring!
At first, prototypes were discussed with PSDA employees from different departments and professions. The testing process was fun, interactive and productive. We asked questions about what people’s favorite websites were and why they trusted them.
The experiment’s participants showcased their favorite webpages and described the details that make a site eye-catching and easy-to-navigate.
After testing, the team brought the results back to the lab and designed a final version of the webpage by putting together all the input from end users, initially with papers and glue – and later on, by transferring them digitally.
These new, workable insights into the design of the webpage allows us to now prototype them,testing different options without investing large amounts of time and money.
Once we are assured that the approach is effective for the users and efficient for the agency itself, we can take it to the public. As Vato Dolidze, a Business Analyst at PSDA, noted at the end of the workshop:
“I think that it is really useful and, at the same time, it’s cool that the Innovative Service Lab prepared prototypes and tested them with the potential users. I, as a future user of the webpage, really appreciate the fact that my ideas and preferences will be taken into consideration.”
Change is the only constant
Building the first prototype and testing its viability proved that design thinking approach minimizes risks, as it involves small, cheap experiments instead of large-scale projects that are difficult and costly to roll back.
Once the right solution is found as a result of some “paper and glue” work and by “getting the hands dirty” – the product can be actually built, thereby transforming a prototype into a real product or service.
As the prototyping exercise has shown, whereby the team members came out with a totally different design of the webpage from what it looked like in the beginning, changes are inevitable, especially in the first stages of development.
The question is: How much one can tolerate?
Particularly in today’s public sector context, we are driven by austerity, drastic changes are far too costly, and “doing more with less” is meant to be the rule, rather than the exception.
As such, if our first workshop with FutureGov is any indication, I think this will be the beginning of a fascinating ride with government and user-centered service design in Georgia.
I hope you’ll tag along with us.