This is late! We missed our June edition, things were busy, staff were getting ready for holidays. I remember when we used to say ‘winding down’ for the holidays but that just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore! Enough of the excuses, we’re back with some great insights, articles and events that are on the horizon.

No Boundaries, No Limits

Maralyn, our Business Development Executive talks every day with SDA customers, about the benefits of taking our accredited Professional Development Award. She shares the value of the course based on speaking to SDA Consultant, looking at course content and reading students’ stories and hearing their feedback. In April it was time to move from secondary research to experience the course first-hand. What’s the Professional Development Award with the Service Design Academy really like?

Maralyn is halfway through the 4-unit, six-month course. We asked her to share her perspective; someone with no service design experience who has returned to the classroom for the first time in a very long while!


Make the learning work for you

This was a different learning experience for me. Rather than the standard expectation I had from training – at best, giving things a go between chalk and talk – we’ve been taken through service design theory to set the context, then quickly on to tackle design challenges together.

Out of the classroom, the four assessments require a focus on work-based issues that will enhance my learning experience and be worthwhile for my organisation. If like me, you don’t design services as part of your everyday role, start thinking about issues that would benefit from your intervention. You’ll need to ask managers and colleagues for their time and support. By helping them understand your goals, you’ll gain buy-in from the beginning for you to learn while making a difference at work.


Pace Yourself

“Don’t leave your assessments to the last minute”, said SDA consultants Katie and Kim in our first introductory coffee shop. Did I listen? Of course not. However, I’ve learned to commit chunks of time during of time during the week, evenings, and weekends to avoid a mad dash on deadline.
All the planning and preparation you need is worth it. My visual portfolio will be a living document that will support my work, not a lifeless essay gathering dust at the back of the wardrobe. Your portfolio will become a tool to share your design progress with others, so it needs love, time and attention.


Small is beautiful

I had an idea of a work project that I’d like to use as my Tools and Methods assessment and had some great conversations with Katie about how to facilitate a small event with the team and with a customer. However, I did not plan the time well, it took much longer than I expected to get through the exercises. The insights I gathered were very useful to inform our customer journey, but I’ve learned to rein in ambition on getting lots done in one session. That’s all part of the service design mindset, progress is incremental and iterative.

Give, Take and Ask for Help

I was assigned a buddy for each unit. Buddies team up in the coffee shops, it’s a great way of sharing concerns, gaining clarity on the coursework, and getting reassurance if you’re having a wobble. I use the dedicated teams channel for my cohort to talk about problems I’m experiencing or material I don’t understand. It’s always helpful to hear from others about their progress.

The consultants share industry articles regularly to build our knowledge and understanding. Every PDA delegate gets free professional membership to the Service Design Network, which means access to a global community of practitioners, and many benefits including Touchpoint magazine and a wealth of case studies which have proven to be very useful for assessments. Service Design has a naturally sharing culture and this makes you feel a part of it.



No boundaries, no limits

I’ve been guided by the service design mindset throughout the course. Planning user research – why not ask someone to look over it as your critical friend? Being clear on the purpose of what I’m doing, and how to share effectively with others is developing my communication skills. I’ve realised that the principles for ideation or co-design aren’t a checklist for how I should behave in a workshop. They guide how I want to work, and how I’ll approach engagement and building relationships. In over 20 years in sales and marketing, I’ve always tried to put the customer first. Service Design is helping me do this the right way.

Great short reads

Employee Experience exceeds HR by Noortje Hartman at Koos
It takes a village to design a service by Tero Väänänen, Head of Design at NHS Digital
So what exactly does customer experience mean by Nikki Gilliland, Ecoconsultancy
Deliver equity to the customer with ease by Shivika Sood


And lastly check out the Design Council’s  Design, Differently digital report. The project brought together community organisers to understand how they have been using design to reimagine and create local spaces and services, and how we could support them to do more of it. Supported by the Emerging Futures Fund, part of the National Lottery Community Fund, and Local Trust.

Rory, SDA Social Media and Marketing Assistant has been sharing the value of Service Design Academy’s programmes since April. To understand more about service design, he’s been observing our PDA learning labs. When the chance came up for a hands on experience in our 2-day Tools for Problem Solving & Innovation course in early June, he jumped at the chance. In addition to building awareness of service design first- hand, he was excited to gain new skills to co-design marketing campaigns with the team. He shares his story here.

I attended the SDA Tools for Problem Solving & Innovation course in early June delivered by SDA consultants Chris Muir and Claire Hartley . They were both excellent at keeping us engaged and conveying information in a way that sunk in. Which was great as although I work for the SDA, I’m still quite new and don’t have a deep grasp on everything Service Design yet. Let me break down what happened and what I learned over the 2-day course.


Day 1: Love The Problem

As you might expect, at the start of Day 1 there were some fun ‘icebreakers’, a nice way to relax us into the main activity ahead.

We started by thinking about 4 typical work issues everyone could be familiar with ‘Leadership’, ‘Silos’, ‘Conflicting Priorities, and ‘High turnover’

We worked together to uncover key themes behind these issues – ‘Conflict’ ‘Us and them’, ‘Emotions’ and ‘Communications’. With a technique described as affinity mapping, we formed groups to work on a chosen theme.


My team, Rory, Eliza and Maureen, our team name was Rested and Ready (REM)

My team researched current day problems relating to our theme. Then we collated the data we found by using a ‘Problem Framer’. Before we reached for a solution we first needed to properly frame the problem, in this case our problem was “Loneliness Due To Covid”. These “discover and define” phases of the process that Chris and Claire shared with us was a complete flip in mindset for me. I like to think quickly about solutions to any problems, but this tool helped us really dig deep into understanding more about the issue. As Claire said, we need to love the problem first!

Problem Framer - It allows us to capture barriers and align to specific opportunities. Problems can be acted upon immediately, or banked for later.

A jam-packed day was drawing to an end. I’m sure the rest of our group felt as buzzed as me, we were all quite talkative and responsive when we were having group conversations throughout the day.

Day 2: Flower Power and Prototyping

Chris and Claire started by explaining that we were moving into the develop phase of the design process, it was time to start ideating. Claire showed us how to use our next tool, SDA Sunflowers. It’s a simple tool which helps you start with an initial idea and develop more ideas around them. This was a fast-paced exercise – filling up the idea petals in one sunflower before expanding on more ideas to how to make this idea happen. With 8 idea petals on each sunflower, and 8 sunflowers we could have come up with 64 ideas, a daunting but exciting and fun challenge for my group. Chris helped us by explaining that it was better to focus on our preferred ideas and then work on those ones.

Next we had to bring forward our favourite solution and prototype how it would work, we chose:

Walking Group – “Themed walks for where ever you are! In the countryside? You can do some birdwatching! In the city? You can do some sightseeing!”

Drawn Walking routes for Rural and Urban, enjoy nature or see the sights in the city!

I drew a sketch of the different routes that could be taken and the kind of activities you can have during the walk, I love drawing, so this was a pleasure for me. Service Design builds confidence in everyone to use visualisation to get ideas across to people you are designing with.

Walking Group Storyboard - Joing the group, meet up, time to walk, see the sights, stop for a snack, make friends, chill out, discuss future walks, become a full time member!

To round off a very busy 2 days, all the teams gave 3 minute presentations to share their prototypes.

Time always flies when presenting, and we overcame our nerves to do a great job! We enjoyed the other teams’ presentations, it was good to hear feedback from them and the consultants.

R&R Walks Presentation Graphic, Rural+Urban, experience the 5 senses,1 stick person saying "I love walking" another stick person responding "Glad you joined!"


The course was very enjoyable, Chris and Claire were great at keeping it engaging. The tools really made me think and work through a problem with others in ways I haven’t done before, I certainly wasn’t taught like this in school! It was easy to collaborate online and I’m happy I was able to further my knowledge on Service Design.

For those interested in looking at our courses, there’s a link to the courses page below!

We are dedicated to supporting a growing community of change makers. We build the skills of design leaders and capacity in business to create better services and customer experiences.

People from across the world come to the Service Design Academy to learn how to design services well. Organisations discover how to build capacity and resilience to solve problems and transform. Accredited education programmes help create confident design thinkers and leaders.

If you haven’t seen our first blog post on this topic then you can read it here!

Three more learners share their service design journeys . . .

Everyone needs a Rip ’n’ Mix!

Karyn Lumsden is a Head of Brand and Communications and first became interested in the world of service design around a decade ago.

“It wasn’t a well-known concept at the time, especially in the public sector. I attended the first Dundee GovJam and I was hooked. I then applied to be a pioneer on the first SDA PDA and the rest is history!”

Coming from a marketing and communications background, Karyn found it refreshing to see methods and tools in place that backed up the way her mind worked.  

She explains: “I immersed myself into the world of service design and have managed to embed it within all areas of my remit. Everybody needs a Rip ’n’ Mix in their life! I met great people on the course, from all walks of life and business. Having us all in the same room, applying our knowledge was quite inspiring.”

Karyn continues to embed service design methodologies into her work and is currently leading on a strategic project that involves the redesign of many complex systems. 

It helps with those difficult conversations

Kevin Ditcham from Dundee is an Insight & Engagement Lead who is currently studying for a Professional Development Award at the Service Design Academy.

Kevin shares his journey so far: “At the start of the pandemic I got the opportunity to take
part in online ‘test classrooms’ for the SDA. I thought it sounded like a great idea and I’ve now progressed to studying for formal qualifications. The teaching team are just excellent – their ability to translate quite tricky concepts to a group of participants who are all from different backgrounds and fields of practice has been amazing! Humour along the way is always good, too, and keeps everyone engaged and hungry for more.

My key takeaway has been the opportunities and spaces that service design approaches create to have those difficult conversations – in teams, in organisations and across sectors. Being able to ‘step back’ with a service design mindset and see the whole picture is something that is so important and undoubtedly leads to change.

“The skills I have learnt and been able to put into practice at work have been wide ranging. You really will see a difference quite quickly in your leadership behaviours and mindset. You will leave with a new set of tools to add to your toolbox which will help you achieve those outcomes you’re striving for.”

Every school requires a tailored approach

Lynsey Clark from South Lanarkshire is a Design & Technology teacher.

Lynsey shares her experience: “The idea of designing a better service within education appealed to me as I believe that every young person is different, and every school therefore requires a tailored approach to providing the best opportunities. I was able to attend the PDA in Service Design course as part of my professional learning and was very lucky to be funded by my school.

“I learned about the ‘tools’ of service design including that to be effective it is about all stakeholders benefiting, not just the consumer/client. This is very important to me as I believe that teachers who feel empowered and fulfilled will transfer this to the pupils they teach.

“Just prior to lockdown, I felt that I had found a true need and desire in my setting for the opportunities that service design could bring to how we manage change and include all stakeholders in the process. I would like to see service design approaches applied at all levels of education, moving away from the traditional top-down approach, and putting education in the hands of the people at the frontline, practitioners, and young people.

For more information on the Service Design Academy visit: www.sda.ac.uk/contact/

The world is an uncertain place. As the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 virus has powerfully demonstrated, change can happen with devastating speed. At the same time, although less visibly, there are profound global trends at work, ranging from the climate crisis to technological disruption and evolving social attitudes. A business’ ability to thrive in the face of change, in whatever form it takes, will depend on ideas, solving challenges and exceeding customer expectations.

In today’s economy, characterised by digital purchasing, social media and a glut of communication channels, customers have more choice and influence than ever before. Satisfying their expectations is the minimum standard. To stand out from the crowd, companies must exceed expectations and delight customers.


And that’s where service design comes in!

1.       Service Design Improves Business Performance

Defining problems in obvious, conventional ways, not surprisingly, often leads to obvious, conventional solutions.

When service design is an integral part of a company’s strategy, it can improve business performance by unlocking the creativity within teams and encouraging a more collaborative, less risk averse culture focused on making things better for people. Naturally, this translates into a stronger brand with a clearer business purpose, coherent identity and great customer experiences that encourage loyalty and advocacy. Your customers become your sales team.

Long-term studies by McKinsey and the Design Management Institute have compared the performance of businesses with strong design capability against that of their peers. In both cases, the businesses that exhibited the best understanding and most effective use of design were found to outperform their peers by around 200% in terms of revenue and shareholder returns. Many other studies have linked design capability with increased customer satisfaction, faster growth, increased revenue, and exports. Evidence based award schemes such as the Design Business Association’s (DBA) Design Effectiveness Awards routinely highlight examples of design delivering significant value for business.

2.       Service Design Builds Resilience

This pandemic has exposed many flaws and vulnerabilities in our structures, practices, and ways of working that have been ignored for too long.

Service Design will help you re-invent the things that don’t work as well as they should or things that need to change to fit new ways of working.

Perhaps for the first time, people can collectively see and understand that the way we currently work has levels of risk, inefficiency, bias, and waste baked in. We can no longer ignore the compelling reasons to re-invent ourselves, our communities and our organisations and build a better normal.

A service design led pandemic response gave Dundee & Angus College students the support they needed, and the College are able to implement the right customer experience plan quickly, saving time and creating organisational resilience.

3.       Service Design Creates Employee Buy-In

An innovation won’t succeed unless a company’s employees get behind it. The surest route to winning their support is to involve them in the process of generating ideas.

In a stable environment, efficiency is achieved by driving variation out of the organisation. But in an unstable world, variation becomes the organisation’s friend, because it opens new paths to success.

Recognising organisations as collections of human beings who are motivated by varying perspectives and emotions, service design emphasises engagement, dialogue, and learning.

By involving customers and staff in the definition of the problem and the development of solutions, design thinking garners a broad commitment to change.


The framework outlines four core principles for problem-solvers to work as effectively as possible:

Put people first

Start with an understanding of the people using a service, their needs, strengths and aspirations.

Communicate visually and inclusively

Help people gain a shared understanding of the problem and ideas.

Collaborate and co-create

Work together and get inspired by what others are doing.

Iterate, iterate, iterate

Do this to spot errors early, manage risk and build confidence in your ideas.

Staff become more loyal and more dedicated to making things happen. Not just your front line, everyone, because they care and are involved.

Importantly it connects the people designing a service with the people who will use it and moves away from organisational silos. Service Design gets around the human biases, for example, being rooted in the status quo because it’s perceived as “too difficult to change” or attachments to specific behavioural norms “That’s how we do things here”.

It does this by overcoming workplace politics, as generated solutions are based on customer experience data, which is transformed into insights, which help teams agree on the design criteria they use to brainstorm solutions.

Alex Breuer, Executive Creative Director and Tara Herman, Executive Editor, Design at The Guardian tell us how design thinking and service design not only helped them change their funding model and boost revenue, but also adapt their culture

I made 5,127 prototypes of my vaccum before I got it right there were 5,126 failures. James Dyson

4.       Service Design Solves The Right Problem

Service Design explores the rationale behind the use of user research and how important it is to consider all stakeholders when designing the right thing, and the thing right.

The Design Council’s Double Diamond clearly conveys a design process to designers and non-designers alike. The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking).

Discover. The first diamond helps people understand, rather than simply assume, what the problem is. It involves speaking to and spending time with people who are affected by the issues.

Define. The insight gathered from the discovery phase can help you to define the challenge in a different way.

Develop. The second diamond encourages people to give different answers to the clearly defined problem, seeking inspiration from elsewhere and co-designing with a range of different people.

Deliver. Delivery involves testing out different solutions at small-scale, rejecting those that will not work and improving the ones that will.

Double diamond diagram on yellow background

5.       Service Design Is A Catalyst For Growth

For businesses engaged in innovation, regardless of size or
sector, design can be a catalyst for growth.

We can easily see the value of great design (and the detrimental effects of bad design) in the goods, services, and environments that we buy and use in our daily lives.

Great design boosts the value of new ideas by making sure they’re not only feasible but also desirable, useful, and frustration-free. It gives businesses a competitive advantage and allows them to compete on value, rather than price, by offering preferable customer experiences that command a premium. At the same time, design can find novel ways to reduce costs without compromising the result so delivering more valuable outcomes.

When conventional wisdom is challenged, we as consumers are pleasantly surprised and a spark of chemistry with the creator is ignited.

By involving people earlier through user-research, testing and co-design activities, a design approach can help companies make important discoveries and validate ideas sooner. It reduces the risk of late-stage problems, saving time and money and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes thereby reducing innovation risk.


Service Design is all around you. So what distinguishes the best of the best? (Fast Company)

By offering a delightful experience, you build loyal customers who become your salesmen and women. #delightingusers #customerexperience

When you challenge the conventional wisdom of your industry, it allows you to view your organization from a different perspective, which helps you come up with different, more innovative solutions. #innovation #branding #delightingusers

Course illustration

Round Up

The structure of design thinking creates a natural flow from research to rollout. Immersion in the customer experience produces data, which is transformed into insights, which help teams agree on design criteria they use to brainstorm solutions. Assumptions about what’s critical to the success of those solutions are examined and then tested with rough prototypes that help teams further develop innovations and prepare them for real-world experiments. Service Design is about making mistakes in the right way so that you identify the gaps and the areas for failure before you finalise a service or a product. So economically it’s a return on investment to ultimately save time, money, and resources.

Great services don’t just happen, they are designed that way. We can help you to do that no matter what sector you’re in. If you’d like service design expertise in your business,

Get In touch here!

Rory Mertes is a new addition to the SDA Team, he is our Digital Media & Marketing Assistant that joined on the 19th of April 2021. We asked him to write about his experience of his first month working here.

Firstly I’ll say how I found out about the Service Design Academy. In January I signed up for Universal Credit as I had recently dropped out of university, I was studying Game Design Production at Abertay, realising it wasn’t for me I wanted to take a different turn in life. I was given a work coach that helped me quickly pinpoint potential careers that fit my interests, I applied for a job at the SDA as many of the roles looked like they’d be a good fit for me.


Week 1

My first day was just introductions and learning the basics of what my job would entail, I was given a very warm welcome and was made to feel part of the team straight away.

 On Tuesday I was in a workshop about Co-Design, this was ran by Claire and Chris, all I was doing was observing and learning. It was really informative and both Chris and Claire made the workshop a fun and engaging experience.

For the rest of the week I was learning more about what the SDA does and what I’d be doing. I also began learning how to use the video editing software Adobe Premiere Pro, as my first big task was to create a short video on the workshop that I had attended on Tuesday. At the end of the week I had begun work on the workshop video, most of the day was cutting down the 2 and a half hours’ worth of footage and finding key moments I could use.


Week 2

Most of the week was spent editing the video, cutting it down to about 2 minutes of good footage, figuring out how the video should look, appropriate music I should use etc. I had finished my first draft on Friday ready to show the team for the following week.

Also scattered throughout the week I figured out WordPress to create blog posts on our website, and I attended a few meetings, again just to observe and learn how things are done here.


Week 3

This week had me doing more blog posts! I also spent my week updating the youtube channel, giving it a fancy banner, and general house keeping making our videos more accessible and adding links to our other social media channels. I was also trying out a new website, Canva, which lets you create all sorts of content, like posters, or brochures, and other similar items. I was tasked with creating a leaflet on the courses we run here, as always using new software is a bit confusing but after a while I became at least somewhat familiar with it and created a decent looking leaflet (maybe it could use some fine tuning from someone who properly knows how to use canva though!).

On the Friday I attended another workshop, this time titled Tools And Methods, it was being ran by Kim and Katie. Again, I learned a lot, Kim and Katie were great at conveying the information in an engaging manner, and the clients got on really well with the activities they were given.


Week 4

Using the feedback I got on week 3 to edit and improve on my first video, improving the consistency of the colour scheme and accessibility of the video through more clear fonts. I’ll be showing my improved version of the video next week so I hope it goes well! Assuming my video can go public on our channel I’ll begin work on my next video, a workshop I attended in week 3, now with 1 video under my belt it’ll only get easier from here!

I also have created a few blogs, the last 3 blogs were done by me and there’s more on the way! Lastly I managed to create a few short social media posts, advertising our upcoming courses for businesses, which there’s still have time to sign up to!



Overall I’ve really enjoyed my first month here, I was nervous going into a job where I didn’t know anybody before hand but everyone has been really welcoming! I’m really fortunate that this job became available to me right as I was looking for one. My responsibilities are exactly what I enjoy doing, video editing, creating graphics, blog posts etc, so the days are flying by, and I get to learn and use a variety of cool software I otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Tgank you SDA for making my 1st month of work a pleasant one!

Looking at ways to adapt your business to meet today’s evolving demands? Want to re-energise your employees? Or are you an individual looking to boost your career options? A service design approach could be the answer.

People from across the world come to the Service Design Academy to learn how to design services well. Organisations discover how to build capacity and resilience to solve problems and transform. Accredited education programmes help create confident design thinkers and leaders.

Here, three learners share their service design journeys . . .

A life-changing experience

Sorina Oprea from Glasgow has just started a new role as a User Experience Senior Analyst and she puts some of her success down to her service design experience.

Sorina shares her story: “Before becoming interested in service design, I studied Psychology and Political Sciences. I took part in four masterclasses at the Service Design Academy before being offered the opportunity to go for a Professional Development Award (PDA) in Service Design. The mix of onsite and online learning was appealing as I was working at the time and had family commitments. My end of PDA project was done in collaboration with UNESCO City of Design Dundee. They were looking to understand what they could do better to support the community of designers in Dundee.”

Sorina felt her PDA qualification helped expand her job opportunities. “For me, the PDA course was life-changing and I hope I can continue to use my knowledge, skills and experience to develop services and products that are focused on users’ needs and which are ethical too.”

The students produced amazing work

Melissa Anderson teaches Business Studies at Arbroath Academy. The Service Design Academy partnered with the school to help redesign its curriculum.

Melissa explains her involvement: “I was asked by the school to undertake a PDA in Service Design to start using some of its principles in the classroom. I was timetabled one period a week with all S2s to teach service design, creativity, presentation skills, problem solving and teamworking.”

This was Melissa’s first time teaching without a specific course outline so she admits she felt a little out of her comfort zone. 

“The class was fantastic for both the students and me. We looked at service design principles, practised using service design tools and worked on a community project for a local supermarket. We even managed to keep the creativity going during home learning and the students produced some amazing work.”

The school hopes to run this course for S2s again next year as well as piloting a Creative Thinking qualification aimed at S5/6s.

Service design just makes sense

Tatiana Zorina, Period Poverty Project Officer at Dundee and Angus College feels her service design experience has helped her in her current role.

Tatiana recounts her journey: “When our staff development department gave me the chance to complete the PDA in Service Design, I didn’t think twice. Service design really resonates with me – it just makes sense!”

Tatiana learned how to co-design the Period Positive project with staff, students and external stakeholders.

“As a result, it has been a great success with huge engagement,” says Tatiana. “I believe it’s all down to the project being designed for people by people – those who use the service in one way or another. I learned lots of practical tools and methods which I can use in so many work and life situations.”

For more information on the Service Design Academy visit: www.sda.ac.uk/contact/

Renate Kriegler Edwards, Carr Gomm Futures Manager shares her story on how service design brought remote support practitioners together to discover and develop new ways of working.

Attending the Gathering in February 2020 as a speaker, I met Service Design Academy (SDA) at their busy stand. SDA were offering charities the chance to win service design training worth £5,000. Charities were invited to share their problems and the potential impact if they were not addressed. I thought this would be a marvellous opportunity to share the concept and process of service design with my colleagues at Carr Gomm. Service Design places people at the heart of change, using creativity to solve problems. I wasn’t sure my problem statement was what SDA had in mind, but I had my fingers crossed when I handed my entry in.

Carr Gomm is committed to listening to staff, learning from each other to maintain our leading edge in social care. Our Futures programme actively promotes innovation and creativity in the workforce.

As a Carr Gomm national service, Futures is based centrally in Edinburgh. I was concerned that Futures wasn’t reaching and engaging our more remote and isolated frontline workers. Many of our workers spend their days driving between appointments, hardly ever seeing their colleagues. It was so frustrating that we struggled to reach the very people whose voices we needed to hear!

I was thrilled when I got the call that we would be collaborating with the Service Design Academy. Although Covid-19 struck only weeks later, we continued to plan our sessions as the SDA repurposed all their live learning online.

There was a bit of trepidation and curiosity when I shared that we would be working with SDA.  The biggest challenge was to arrange for support practitioners in small services to be relieved from their rotas to join in these discussions that were all about them. But regional and local managers were supportive, and several support practitioners were up for the adventure.

The workshops were facilitated energetically and creatively by the SDA team. They used the digital tool Miro, an online whiteboard space to learn and to express ideas with each other. It gives everyone an equal voice.  All insights can be recorded and re-explored after the session.

The workshop programme was co-designed with a small group representing Carr Gomm’s national service to agree initial problem statements and logistics. A Joining Journey was created for participants to practice with Miro so we could all feel comfortable using it during the workshops.

The main sessions were amazing! I knew many of the issues for frontline workers, but it was so incredibly important to sit down together and learn to listen properly to their lived experience.

The group was introduced to the key principles of design, including the importance of working in the problem space rather than jumping straight to solutions. “Don’t Make Assumptions” is a mantra.

Double diamond diagram on yellow background

Using a variety of tools to capture knowledge, people reviewed themes and formed smaller workgroups. We then moved to understand our problem more deeply by undertaking user research. We learned techniques on questioning and how to listen well. The groups practised their interviewing skills and gathered more data outside the classroom, with “cheerful chats” back at work with colleagues.

This interview data was collated and then we were guided by the consultants on how to generate ideas towards co-designing prototypes.

SDA have a positive approach which empowered the group. They helped us frame problems by encouraging us to think “how might we ……….?”

The impact of using service design has been immediate and will help us going forward. I will use the toolkit again and again for idea generation and implementing actions.

I always knew that Futures was a service to Carr Gomm, but this has helped me to articulate that we are there to design better ways of working with, not just for each other. 

Next steps

·      Five prototypes are now ready to trial, including open door sessions, to help demystify Futures, promoting our “no staff idea is too big, too small or too unformed” message.

·        The experience led to a reflection on how innovation may help shape and deliver Carr Gomm’s next three-year strategic plan.

·        We’re encouraging teams to regroup around their prototypes. Staff are encouraged to submit proposals that will be considered by the appropriate team – even at exec level.

·        Reflecting in my own group on how Futures may bring more fun to the workplace, I was led back to an existing Futures idea – to implement Joy in Work. My frontline colleague Claire and I are now proposing a campaign where we invite staff to nominate “Joyworkers” – colleagues who do little things to make the work-day easier or more enjoyable for others.

·        We hope to create a more deliberate process of gathering evidence from Futures projects, which will help close the funding loop.

·        Our learning will also support Carr Gomm’s ambitious digital inclusion strategy.

More than anything else, the workshops have led to improved communication, insight, reflection, empathy and collaboration between the central teams and local services.

As someone driving innovation, I feel invigorated and inspired. The participants enjoyed being creative, having pride in what they achieved and learned. Particularly so for support practitioners, this was a profoundly different experience. Our collaboration with Service Design Academy is something to build on for sure. I’d recommend this approach to any charity looking to find better ways of working.

About Carr Gomm

Carr Gomm is a leading Scottish social care and community development charity. Established in 1997, it became an independent charity in 2002.

Carr Gomm supports about 2,000 people across Scotland to live their lives safely and well according to their choices, whilst making plans to achieve their hopes and dreams for tomorrow. Our support is person-centred and strongly reflects our values of choice, control, respect, interdependence, and openness and honesty, ensuring that people can lead full and positive lives as active citizens. A core part of our work is fundraising, to fill the gaps in society and provide support where no one else is – specifically focusing on tackling issues of loneliness and isolation.

For further information and images, or to discuss interview opportunities with Carr Gomm, please contact: eilidhmacleod@carrgomm.org

About Service Design Academy

Service Design puts people first, using creativity to solve problems, challenge thinking and make lives better. It creates an environment where people thrive, and innovation happens. It builds resilience and supports new ways of working.

SDA was launched in November 2017 at Dundee and Angus College and is a not-for-profit company committed to creating positive impact through interactive, practice-based learning. We have considerable expertise working on transformational change programmes across the private, public and third sectors.

SDA’s training and education programme ranges from a half-day introduction to service design mindset to the Professional Development Award in Service Design – the first and only Scottish Qualification Authority accredited course in Service Design at this level (SCQF 7) in the UK.

Our courses and customised programmes aim to foster design leadership, build service design capacity and create a community of practitioners. In 3 years, SDA has delivered over 350 workshops to over 5,000 people from 400 organisations.

SDA shapes programmes to address strategic objectives, while developing skills to meet the growing need to transform effectively. We work with delegates who come from organisations across the UK including local authorities, NHS, professional and financial services, national and community based charities.

We are proud to have been the first organisation in the world to be awarded full accreditation in 2020 from the Service Design Network, the global body that leads and drives service design thinking and education.


To find out more about Service Design Academy please contact Maralyn Boyle m.boyle@dundeeandangus.ac.uk