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SF Shines working session

Service design is a method for creating programs and services that are desirable and accessible to their intended audience. We employ service design to ensure that public services address the needs of the community, and that the people, process, and infrastructure of services are aligned to deliver on those needs.

Well-designed services often mean the difference between someone getting access to crucial public services or going without. Whether your team provides workforce development services to people experiencing homelessness, building permits to residents, or counseling services to city employees, service design is a helpful tool to improve your programs’s effectiveness and impact.

Our work focuses on evaluating services and co-designing improvements, resulting in:

  • Nuanced understanding of your audience and their needs. We believe that designing for the ‘average customer’ can further marginalize the communities and individuals that we hope to serve. Identifying the differences within a stakeholder group can help to better align your intent with your impact.
  • Clear process maps that help visualize the structure of existing services and align stakeholders around opportunities for improvement.
  • Consensus and a commitment to change. Participatory service design – meaningfully engaging stakeholders in the design (and decision) process – helps develop ownership of and commitment to continual service improvement.
  • Actionable design recommendations that are rooted in the needs of both the intended ‘customer’ and the humans delivering the service. By clearly defining challenges and collaboratively exploring solutions, we ensure people’s experiences and needs are translated into practical next steps.

Service design (as a field of design) is informed by numerous disciplines, including anthropology, user experience, and business process design. We take this same approach – drawing inspiration from various fields and industries and translating them for the public sector context. This broad approach allows us to offer these services in diverse contexts, such as:

  • Program evaluation of a small business grant program to ensure the end-to-end process is smooth and accessible to diverse business owners.
  • System mapping of providers and programs to help improve connections to employment services for people experiencing homelessness.

As we grow the field of public sector service design, we are equally committed to sharing what we learn. Through our trainings and learning labs, we teach the basics of service design, share our unique approaches for cracking tough challenges, and share tools that anyone can use to design services in their job.