Creativity in public services workshop overview

In this short blog Robbie Bates, Senior Designer at Uscreates gives an overview of the workshop they delivered as part of our Dublin Conference. 

workshop uscreates blog

At Uscreates we believe in the power of creativity to drive positive change and embed innovation. We don’t believe in innovation for innovation’s sake; we use creativity to help organisations identify big challenges and solve them using methods that create organisational cost savings and better user experiences. We advocate applying creativity to open up a dialogue between those designing public services and those using these services.

Creativity is embedded in the heart of what we do and how we work with clients at Uscreates. Our ambition was to share some of the things we’ve learnt working with our clients over the past decade, and to create an environment that allowed people to get stuck into solving live challenges using some of our tried and tested tools and techniques.

It was hands-on, agile and got people making, doing and discussing challenges and solutions from new perspectives. We kicked off by introducing teams to the key pillars of innovation and creativity (co-creation, divergent thinking, agile development and lateral thinking); before working through 4 key stages of our design process (definition, discovery, development and delivery) to address a set of live public sector challenges.

To keep teams inspired we crowd-sourced some top tips and methods from our public sector clients for embedding creativity and innovation in public services. Below are a few but you can download the full deck of top tips here:

“You need to keep your team future-focused when addressing social challenges. A preventative approach means you need to anticipate problems in the year 2040 and start preventing them from happening today rather than just being reactive. Scenarios and future artefacts can help with this.”
Cat Drew, Senior Policy Advisor Policy Lab, Cabinet Office

“Once you have an innovative service out there delivering results, this will be your showcase to get you the buy-in you need to roll out your design approach across the organisation.”
Glen Crosier, Joint Commissioning Manager, NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group

The challenges focused on during the workshop were supplied by the workshop participants. This gave teams real, live problems to work through. The challenges covered a breadth of public sector issues, such as improving student experience, innovating civil services, improving sustainable behaviours and co-producing local services.

The activities were quick, and encouraged agile development. You can download our methods deck here.

In order to solve the problem, you first need to understand the challenge. The teams kicked-off the discovery phase by defining SMART goals and re-writing their challenges into a format that would stimulate idea generation.

Once you know the ‘what’, you can then define the ‘who’. At Uscreates we put people at the centre of our problem solving process to ensure we fully understand the issue, so we wanted the teams to do the same.

By prioritising key stakeholders and creating personas the teams could then think about the innovative methods they would use to engage those who affect and are affected by their challenge, in order to design solutions that deliver better outcomes.

We often use ‘Innovation Sprints’ both internally and with our clients at Uscreates. To generate ideas in agile, lateral and divergent ways we got the teams to do the same. The teams came up with nine ideas (one per minute!) and then used Edward De Bono’s divergent thinking techniques (invert, exaggerate, subtract, merge) to push ideas in new directions.

Finally teams got really stuck in and started to prototype their best ideas using whatever they could get their hands on! As David Kelley at IDEO articulates, prototyping is a great way to get people to think with their hands and to give form to their ideas. This exercise resulted in great visual prototypes, from wearable tech to make us more eco-friendly at festivals, to international exchange programmes that flew entrepreneurs across the globe for professional development.


Prototyping ideas

When asked to share their take-aways, it was pleasant to hear that everyone who attended got something useful from the workshop, from transferable tools and techniques to boost creativity to experiencing the value of collaborative people-centred processes. We hope that through this workshop, we were able to demonstrate the value of creativity in the public sector.

Robbie Bates is the Senior Designer at Uscreates. To find more about Uscreates you can visit their website.

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