Clara Greo

Reflections on running service design training

by Clara Greo and Ignacia Orellana

At the beginning of November, we ran the Introduction to Service Design in Government training course together for the first time as independent trainers. We had lots of fun, and we want to share some of the things we tried and what we learned.

Post-it notes on a window. The ones in focus say "Really interesting content. Great day!", "Good mix of theory + research", "Tools", "Good range of activities." and "I prefer exercise first explanation after""

This course was created by the user-centred design communities (UCD) team, which was part of the Government Digital Service (GDS). The team worked to advocate for user-centred design in government, increase the UCD capability of the public sector and enable teams throughout government to deliver good services for users. The UCD team ran the course 27 times and trained over 700 civil servants and public sector workers. Unfortunately, the UCD team was disbanded in 2020 and there’s no longer a team regularly running and supporting this course from inside the UK government.

Sometimes the course is run by service designers across government, like Lisa Jeffery and Marc O'Connor, but this depends on these people using extra time, outside of their day to day objectives and department’s priorities. When the UCD team closed down, there were over 300 people on the waiting list for this course. We both left GDS in 2022, and we decided to try to fulfil some of that demand by running the course privately. This is how it went, what we learned, and what’s next.

What we learned

Real experience is important for trainers: domain expertise of working in government doing service design is essential to running the course. People want to learn from real experience, hear how things apply in the real world and get advice about specific situations they are facing.

Learning from others is a core benefit of the course: we consistently receive feedback that participants love learning from other people on the course. We’ve found that it’s a big benefit to have people from different organisations or different teams on the same course. It’s great to share the challenges of advocating for UCD and service design in different service contexts, and to talk about different ways and tools for addressing problems.

Building a network is valuable: people often exchange contacts on the last day of the course. The course isn’t just a space to learn and share, but also a place to expand your network of UCD minded folks across the public sector. We have a slack instance where we’ll be continuing to share and learn from  people who have attended the course over the years.

The course is useful for many different people: we’ve had many different disciplines and roles on the course, including designers, user research, content design, product management, delivery management, policy, business analyst, data architecture, and tech architecture. There has been a good mix of levels of seniority, departments, and locations across the UK.

Most people book in groups: most bookings were in groups of 3 or 4 from one organisation. Even though we always mix the groups so people get the value of learning from other departments or disciplines, there is something about doing this course together as a team. We offer discounts for groups of 3 or more tickets. When the course was run inside the government (for free), we consistently had a 75% drop-out rate (despite having a waiting list of over 300 people for the course). There were no dropouts during this course.

We were able to offer £1,300 in subsidised tickets for underrepresented groups: this was something that was very important for us to be able to do. We chose to prioritise groups who we believe to be under-represented in the UK service design industry: Black, disabled, trans or not university educated people. For our future course, we’ve added people who are actively working in the climate space because we believe in supporting this work.

We were also able to include people who do not currently have jobs in government but are looking to move or upskill into the industry, which is something we couldn’t offer from within government.

Feedback from participants

Participants enjoyed the course and got a lot of value from it! They told us that the things they liked most were:

  • learning by doing and group activity approach to learning,
  • the course was structured over 4 days during the morning and with a break in the middle
  • book and blog post recommendations

Here are some testimonials participants:

"Thoroughly recommend the course, I learnt so much, it was extremely valuable and I have already used one of the tools in a workshop this week in trying to understand the problem 😀"

Sumeara, user researcher at ONS

“I got a real insight into the scope of the role of a service designer and how to approach projects with a service design mindset. I also learnt about some of the tools available to help teams work together to solve problems.

Clara and Ignacia were warm, engaging and knowledgeable facilitators. They managed to involve everyone in discussions and activities. I'll be looking out for other courses they run in the future. I cannot recommend the course highly enough!”

Hannah Drysden, content designer

"This is a great introductory course to understanding Service Design in government delivered by Clara and Ignacia, who are both well versed in this space with many years of experience between them. It's immediately evident that both have much to offer and are passionate about Service Design and User Centred Design. The course format is especially valuable; allowing participants to learn about service design nuances across government through bite-sized activities and tips on how to champion service design. I really enjoyed participating and learning with and from others across government."

Hardeep Singh, aspiring Service Designer

What’s next for this course

We’ve decided we’d like to do it again! In our next Introduction to Service Design in Government course, running from the 6th of December to the 9th December, we’ve added 30 minutes more to each day (going up to 10 hours now).

It’s also being run by Martin Jordan in Germany and hopefully by Lisa and Marc in Services week 2023 in the UK.

We’ll have future dates soon, so if you are interested sign-up to our newsletter and we’ll keep you posted.