Tom Loosemore’s keynote on Government Digital Services in the UK was memorable for a couple of key points:
1. Transforming government service requires breaking down the caste system and silos between policy makers and front-line operators. To reform a service, all stakeholders must be at the planning and design table. Loosemore notes a key first step is for all stakeholders to attend to policy intent and for all to address user needs.
2. Loosemore talks a lot about GDS and Gov.uk as as a platform for service and the need for some parts of government to reshape themselves to cut across traditional organizational silos and boundaries between discrete castes amongst categories of government workers.
Loosemore’s talk about service transformation resonates for higher education because it challenges professional staff to consider how we might think about education as a horizontal service platform and how we might work towards integrating and reducing boundaries and hierarchies that lessen or weaken the value of the learning experience for students or scholarly experience for academics.
I am aware of at least three institutions that have already taken first steps towards using service design to ameliorate user experience in higher education: University of California Berkeley and University of Derby, and Queen’s University, Kingston. Faculty and staff at all three have started by addressing the experience for students interfacing with university systems. What I have yet to find is an example of higher education service design that integrates a focus on students experience and also addressin the complexity of university organizations and other user communities that comprise them.
Loosemore’s call for design teams to turn to policy intent led me to the insight that higher education professionals and faculty can and should attend to the fundamental principles underlying the organization and institution they are working within. In my case, that means not only attending to the dark matter of SFU policy but also the well-articulated mission and values of The Beedie School of Business. If users spend the time at the outset of a project reconnecting with fundamental policy commitments and principles that might clarify the path and direction for a specific curriculum initiative.
Finally Loosemore’s talk incudes a memorable quotation about the value of starting with policy and working forward to address user needs:
“You would be surprised at the detritus of accreted nonsense that you can strip away.”