Service Design Academy
A headshot of Jo McNicoll. She is white, with brown eyes, and shoulder-length dark hair which gradually lightens from the eyes downwards.

Dr Jo McNicoll tells us what first drew her to the Service Design Academy and how service design has inspired her.

She offers expert advice on how to get the most from the Professional Development Award in Service Design.

My journey with Service Design Academy

I’ve been in the core team for the Professional Development Award since we started designing the accredited six-month course in 2018.

I brought academic and practical design experience to the Service Design Academy, having worked with V&A Dundee as the Design for Business Research Manager and teaching design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Dundee & Angus College.

My career with the Service Design Academy was sparked initially from my curiosity.

I came along to some introductory taster events and quickly realised that I wanted to work there. I loved the warm atmosphere and quirky sense of fun – it felt like a special place to work and support learners. When an opportunity came to join as a training consultant, I jumped at the chance to come onboard!             

Just like service design itself, people are what makes the Service Design Academy.

The team brings different experience and specialisms so that our courses meet learners needs. We also have to be organised, knowledgeable and adaptable to streamline ways of working together, so our learners have the best possible experiences.

Helsinki Inspires

Not long into my new job, I had a really eye-opening experience on how service design makes change for good.

I joined a week’s mission to Helsinki and learned how design is engrained there from the grassroots up. Design is a way thinking from creating aesthetically appealing environments to the practical development of services.

In Helsinki, participatory budgeting is the norm for citizens, who have a genuine say in how services are delivered.

Service design is in their DNA, embedded across local public services and public bodies. Seeing this in action has been a driver for me to build design skills and knowledge with others.

A green and yellow tram drives through a Helsinki street in the evening. The pavement is busy with people walking past stone buildings housing shops. Above the tram cables in the sky are many warm festive lights.

Professional Development Award in Service Design

I helped to develop our very first Professional Development Award and started delivery in 2018. I’ve seen it grow in popularity not only in the UK but across the world.

With the move from face-to-face delivery to online, I’ve seen how effectively collaboration can work using digital tools. This shift doesn’t mean a move from our values – we always make sure our learners are supported fully.

I think the secret of our success is the support we offer – it’s so important to me to demystify and uncomplicate.

I meet with learners before they start the course. It always interests me on why they want to build skills in service design practice. Some people want to learn how to do their jobs better, others want to get the accreditation, and some see it as a stepping-stone to grow their confidence and skills to do new jobs.

I speak to people who have been given a service design remit but want to understand what that means.

Others see our PDA as continuing personal development opportunity to solve problems, innovate and transform – these are the revolutionaries in the workplace!

Graphic of a woman walking up stairs. In the background is a white wall covered in drawings of graphs, charts, devices, people, light bulbs, and questions marks, alongside words like "dreams," "structure," "ideas," and "success".

My PDA advice

There are challenges to balancing work and other commitments when you take on study.

The assessments need proper time and attention to complete. You’ll need to set up workshops and encourage others to give their time to attend and participate.

With 5 weeks to every unit, time is precious.

My advice is to be organised from the very beginning, think ahead to plan events, and get dates in your colleagues’ calendars. We’ll support you with choosing a project of the right scale and scope to make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

A diary filled with writing and yellow sticky notes. To the right is a hand (belonging to a person who is black) holding a pen.

I’m constantly reminding learners that nothing needs to be perfect.

If your projects don’t go to plan that’s perfectly ok. Its reflecting on what happened and demonstrating your learning that matters. We offer coffee shops at the start of each of the 4 units where we will go over what’s expected and in 121 chats we’ll coach you on mapping out plans.

You’re never on your own in the PDA,

You have a fellow buddy on each unit and can keep in touch with a group of peers who will support you with feedback and advice.

A presentation slide with the heading "Buddies for life". It reads "Remember to utilise your buddy network! Working solo is challenging, so lean on your peers for support. Set up short check-ins, you can help each other out. Share what you've learned and ask questions of each other. Maybe you'll need a critical friend?"

Your reward from your hard work will be a portfolio which demonstrates that you can work through a design process using tools and methods in the right way.

You’ll understand how to adapt your learning to meet your needs. Your portfolio is something that you can use to showcase in your organisation to build conversations to support change, or even use to demonstrate your practical skill and experience in job interviews.

The impact that the course brings to learners is nothing less than amazing.

Most are apprehensive to start, but their confidence builds as they appreciate the possibilities that service design brings. They can make a difference, improving services, communities and transforming the way they work. Every time I see this happening, I’m reminded of what a rewarding job I have.

If what Jo has described make you curious to learn more, our next online Professional Development Award starts in August.

Dear Service Design Academy friend, 

Welcome to our May newsletter.  

This month we look back on a busy April and forward to the months ahead with details of courses coming up.   

These include Professional Development Award August and October 23 cohortsDesign Your People ExperienceBackstage and Behind the Scenes for Public Services and Design Your Donor Journey. 

We’ll also focus on learn-by-doing” in our professional practice. 

April was another varied month for the team, with our latest 5-day Innovation and Impact cohort completing this immersive and intense introduction to service design. 

Here’s some great feedback on what our group learned: 

Six coloured sticky-notes with text. Lots of really good things – new techniques learned and practiced. Loads of new techniques and tools. Lots about the process of service design as a whole/ concept. So many good techniques to take back and implement. New ways to think about prototyping and getting feedback. Lots about service design in general but in particular the different methods that you can use.

We’ve been busy too with customised training programmes

  • Manchester City Council (Design Your People Experience 2-day course)
  • Department of Health and Social Care (Welcome to Service Design 1-day and 5-day Innovation and Impact course)
  • Dundee City Council (Pathfinder project 3-day face to face course)

You can register interest in our next 5-day course in August 23 here.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can customise a training programme to meet your team’s needs, get in touch with us at info@sda.ac.uk for a chat. We’ll share recommended training programmes with prices to suit your budge

Introduction to Visual Thinking with Workvisible

Service Design Academy was delighted to host an online visualisation taster session on the 27th April with Marcus DeVale and the Workvisible team. This had a phenomenal turnout from invited community members, many thanks to all who took part.

Marcus introduced us to what visual thinking is and its value in helping us to remember things in our long-term memory, the ability to communicate in a different way and to provide a high-level understanding and overview, whether that’s for proposals, presentations or the sharing of data findings. Marcus took us through, step by step, on the basics behind visual thinking, and how to use and develop a visual library of simple shapes combined to make icons. 

A photograph taken by one of the Workvisible session participants – watching Marcus drawing on a flip-chart and some drawings made by a participant of a present, lightbulb, shark swimming in the sea, document, mountain, magnifying glass and target.

Focus on Professional Practice: Learn by Doing

We were all “learning by doing” as Marcus took us through our visual pacesWe asked Katie Murrie, SDA’s lead consultant what having a hands-on approach to learning means to her:

“Most of our training programmes are based on design challenges or “how might we” statements. This gives our learners an immersive experience, they will be drawing on their experience to share with other learners, and then to challenge the assumptions they’ve made.

We ask our learning groups to take a leap of faith, trust the process as a starting point and not to worry about perfection with anything they are doing. We create a conducive learning environment to practice, from deciding what questions to ask, tools to use, to implementing new visualisation techniques.

They’ll learn very early on that service design is not a “paint by numbers” linear process; you will grow your expertise through taking learnings from every experience you have. And practise will move everyone towards increased confidence and expertise. Iteration is a key principle of service design, which means that our teaching content and teaching style are always aligned.”

So, what’s the risk of not learning by doing?

In the article How to avoid the dangers of not learning by doing,  Amanda Nimon-Peters describes how “Leading your organisation to avoid the “not learning by doing” phenomenon to ensure you are constantly improving your toolkits, rather than simply applying the same tools to new situations.”

Nimon-Peter’s continues, “Learning by doing is effective because we learn what happens from our actions. If a particular solution results in disaster, you become less likely to use that solution again – a pattern crucially important for skill development to ensure we do not need to constantly re-learn basic skills. However, once we feel we have sufficient capability to meet our end-goals, we stop working on improving our skills and instead rely on the tools we have to deliver our results.”

She suggests the best remedy to the not learning by doing is described in Ericsson’s Deliberate Practice described in the bestseller ” Peak” approach. This blog from Ivaylo Durmonskil describes what deliberate practice looks like https://durmonski.com/self-improvement/deliberate-practice-theory/

In a nutshell: How do you Deliberately Practice Something?

  • Try
  • Fail
  • Get feedback
  • Try again better
Yellow post it with the words Practice Makes Perfect

Courses Ready to Book

Our 2-day live and online Design Your People Experience course runs again on the 1st and 8th of June. This course has been designed for anyone involved at any stage of the employee journey.
You will:

  • be introduced to the Service Design approach and mindset
  • develop a people centred approach to create the future of work at your organisation
  • learn how you can increase satisfaction by developing ways to improve the people experience

What’s the difference between employee and people experience? SDA consultant Kim Anderson explains:

“At the Service Design Academy, we like to focus on “people” opposed to “employee” experience. We believe that this subtle change in language can have a positive impact on mindset when creating these experiences. This helps to break down the hierarchy that the use of the word “employee” might have and allows everyone who works at an organisation to be seen as a unique person whatever they do and however they do it.“

If you are interested in this course but are looking for later dates, please let us know and we’ll register your interest for future courses – info@sda.ac.uk 

Design Your Donor Journey 5th June 9.30 – 1pm

In this ½ day course designed for professional charity fundraisers, SDA will share how taking a design approach can help you understand more about your donors’ needs and experience. You’ll leave with tools on how to design better ways to develop your fundraising relationships.
Very limited free places are available for groups of 2-4 charity fundraisers. Please contact Maralyn Boyle for how to join m.boyle@dundeeandangus.ac.uk

Going Backstage and Behind the Scenes to Design Successful Services - An online introductory course for public sector leaders
In partnership with Service Design Network 22nd June 3pm – 6.30pm (BST)

Public services should be designed with customers’ experiences and needs at the heart. This means that we tend to focus on the impact they make from the perspective of external users. But in doing this, we have lost sight of two critical elements – “backstage” and “behind the scenes”. Service design gives the opportunity to make an impact in all three places.
Join Katie Murrie and Kim Anderson to learn:

  • How service design makes impact not only with customer experience, or with frontline staff but backstage and behind the scenes 
  • When designing services why you should think about the people and the processes that support the frontline
  • What are the things that the organisation must do to make both the front and backstage possible. These include culture, employee engagement, policies, budgets
  • Why we need to think about the right conditions, the processes and structures in  in the organisation to make effective transformation
  • What Service Design can do to support creating the right conditions

 Early Bird prices until 22nd May! Find out more and book here

August and October 23 Professional Development Award dates released!

We are delighted to confirm new dates have been released for the Professional Development Award (PDA) in Service Design, the leading accredited course for anyone looking to develop their service design practice.

August ‘23  – March ’24 (limited availability)

October ‘23 – April  ‘24

The six-month course covers the core skills, tools, and mindsets you need to service design powerful interventions for complex issues. Learners are taken on a journey, a process spanning four learning units over six months with 17 live sessions and interactive content on a live learning environment.

The PDA connects theory and practical applications through a mix of experiences, live online classrooms, watch anytime videos, teamwork, mentoring and case studies.

Our PDA learners:

  • Develop a knowledge of the fundamental tools and methods used throughout the service design process and the ability to apply these in your own professional domain
  • Build skills in user research by implementing methods to identify the needs of service users and undertaking a small-scale user research project
  • Explore how co-design can be developed as an approach that involves service users collaboratively in the service design process
  • Communicate and reflect on a service design project process and outcomes

You can find out more here PDA in Service Design

To register interest or find out more please contact us on info@sda.ac.uk

Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s newsletter. Please feel free to share and signpost anyone you think should follow us:  contact us

Have a great month!
The Service Design Academy team

Dear friend,

We hope that you’re having a great start to 2023!  The snowdrops are starting to peak through here in Scotland, and Service Design Academy team are looking forward to a busy spring time ahead.

We started 2023 by delivering training courses to help people from different organisations build new skills and find better ways of working together.

  • Co-Design to Connect with a Regional Employability stakeholder group
  • Creating a Community Vision with a local leisure and entertainment hub
  • Designing Employee Experience with Human Resources and Organisational Development Teams

If you would like to find out how we can customise a programme of training to meet skills gaps while colleagues work together on an organisational challenge please get in touch  info@sda.ac.uk

Booking Now

5-Day Design for Innovation and Impact
picture with dates and price

Our popular course offers a hands-on, learn by doing insight into the process of service design.  Find out what you’ll learn and do in this link:  

Day by Day Outline


The course is delivered over 5 weeks live and online by our team of expert trainers. Corporate groups can bring in live challenges to work on together for a learn by doing experience. We will support individual learners to work on a relatable challenge.  
graphic with quote

Book your place by emailing us at info@sda.ac.uk or call 01382 448868

Professional Development Award

PDA delegate Molly Northcote Putting User Research into action!

Are you ready to develop your skills in service design practice with the first and only accredited Professional Development qualification?
Applications are now open for our next 6-month course starting in April.

Apply Now For April – October course

This six-month course is delivered by our expert service design trainers and offers a learn by doing approach where you will:

  • Develop a knowledge of the fundamental tools and methods used throughout the service design process and the ability to apply these in your role
  • Build skills in user research by implementing methods to identify the needs of service users and undertaking a small-scale user research project
  • Explore how co-design can be developed as an approach that involves service users collaboratively in the service design process
  • Communicate and reflect on a service design project process and outcomes

For more information on our courses or discuss how we can help you build skills and capacity in service design please do get in touch: info@sda.ac.uk

Service Design for Building Digital Capability – Can you help your help with our research?

Our course offering is mapped against Skills Levels aligned to the UK Government Digital Data and Technology Profession Capability Framework and Scottish Government’s Digital Data & Technology Framework

To help us understand more about knowledge, understanding and implementation of service design we’re having 121 cheerful chats with people working in roles in:

  • cyber security and information assurance
  • data
  • IT operations
  • product and delivery
  • quality assurance testing
  • technical
  • user-centred design

If you’d like to help, please get in touch with info@sda.ac.uk to help or you can set up a 30 minute online meeting at a time that suits you here Book a Cheerful Chat

Quick Read

What should you expect from service design training? John Lynch’s recent article resonates with the Service Design Academy’s approach, we’d love to hear your thoughts on what you expect from service design training. 

So you’ve decided to learn about Service Design… | by John Lynch | Jan, 2023 | Medium

  • Practice makes perfect, this is not something that can quickly be learned in theory, you need to experience the practice.
  • Developing the right mindset is what matters

Thank you to Peter Byebierggaard for sharing this with us.

Many thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter. Please don’t forget to let your colleagues know about us – they can join our mailing list here: https://www.sda.ac.uk/contact/

Free Online Session with Katie Murrie and Robbie Beautyman

Tuesday 22nd November

09.30 – 11.00 GMT

It’s natural for us all to be guided by our assumptions. They are the ideas and convictions that we take for granted that constantly shape our point of view. However, they keep us firmly in our comfort zone, and can hold us back from making the change needed. Assuming you know the answer is the easy way to solve problems. It’s also a costly and risky business if what you assumed is completely wrong.

When you choose to challenge assumptions, you’ll make the effort to understand the problem fully by venturing into the unknown and do the right things to understand where the issues really lie. You will be rewarded with new perspectives and ideas to start you on your path to innovation.

In this 90-minute free and interactive online event, SDA consultants Katie Murrie and Robbie Beautyman will share how a shift in mindset to design thinking will start you on the right path to innovation.

Who should attend?

Anyone who wants to “learn by doing” as to how design can help their business innovate.

What will I get from attending the event?

You’ll learn from Katie and Robbie about the value that service design brings. They will share with you how building you and your team’s design skills can make the difference to your business needs.

or get in touch with us at info@sda.ac.uk

I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer! As the seasons change, September always fills me with that fresh start feeling. It’s that nostalgic sense of heading back to school equipped with a brand-new pencil case, stationery, and warmer clothes. It’s the traditional time to begin learning, with colleges and universities welcoming learners to their campuses.

It’s also the time of year when we start to root out new TV series, boxsets, and films for the winter nights ahead.

That fresh start feeling has inspired new perspectives in our course offerings, which can help tackle organisational problems and provide the skills to do things differently.  With the unique set of challenges everyone is facing right now, we need to lose assumptions about the nature of work and how it is organised.

The beauty of Service Design, it that it’s for absolutely everyone.  It takes the creative tools in a designer’s kit and makes them accessible to all. If you have a problem, and a user in need of a solution, the process will open you up to innovative possibilities you hadn’t previously considered.

In fact, service design has generated huge change in industries that aren’t typically associated with creativity. The Service Design Academy has worked with leaders and teams in national & local government, finance, education, insurance, health care and charities, empowering them to adopt a human centred perspective and make innovation a way of life.

Right now, we have a great opportunity to shape ourselves and our workplace for the future so that come the Spring, we’re ready to bloom and grow and welcome back the sunshine.

However, if you are tempted to think that your business is fine, relying on the same old strategies to deliver future success, remember the history of Blockbuster and Netflix

Blockbuster store

Within the past decade, there isn’t a better example of a business that has pivoted based on customer preferences, wants, and needs, than Netflix. And there’s no better example of a business that didn’t, than Netflix’s competitor Blockbuster.

If you’re a child of the ’80s or ’90s, a trip to the Blockbuster video store was a staple ritual in planning your weekend entertainment.

The massive video rental chain was a one-stop shop where you could hire a video while picking up your popcorn and sweets to enjoy a cinematic experience in the comfort of your own living room.

At the height of its popularity in 2004, there were more than 9,000 Blockbuster stores around the globe with over 500 in the UK alone.

At that time Netflix was a service that delivered movies to customers direct by mail.  Netflix’s model was innovative, but when cable companies started offering movies on demand, no one wanted to wait the delivery time when you could stream whenever you wanted.

How both companies responded to this market change defines the difference between traditional and agile business models.  It’s also why business leaders must constantly engage with customers to stay relevant and drive innovation.

Blockbuster held on to its business model, by using service design, Netflix became an on-demand streaming site, facing up to the competition by meeting customer needs and expectations.

It didn’t stop there.  Recognising the value of service design and design thinking to continuously improve its business model, Netflix encouraged teams to delight customers through new opportunities to drive better engagement and new revenue.

Netflix then quickly moved to create unique content, recognising that customers were hungry for better and more provocative content – series and movies that would never be shown on mainstream television – shows like Orange is the New Black, Dahmer, and Ozark.

Netflix changed again in 2016 completely rebuilding its interface to offer trailers that launched as the customer started scrolling, capturing customer attention from the second they landed, and doing away with still images or a series of posters.

They also leveraged AI and predictive analytics with “Because you watched …..” creating a unique experience for every viewer based on their viewing habits. This set customer expectations for every other entertainment company!

Every one of these innovations came from empathising with their customers, using service design to discover again and again, what every customer wants to experience when using the service.

In 2013, Blockbuster went into administration and by December that same year, and unable to find a buyer for the business, the remaining stores were closed.  Netflix has 200 million customers worldwide.  

That’s the power of service design.

Business transformation and creating a culture of innovation aren’t easy tasks. Fortunately, we have industry-leading resources that can help you. Our experts are constantly creating courses and tools to reimagine the business world as a more innovative, supportive place for everyone.

If you’re looking for a new approach to business challenges, intent on engaging with your communities, interested in learning how to innovate and problem-solve, or future proofing by becoming agile and flexible, our courses offer a hands-on, learn by doing insight into the process of service design. You’ll learn how it drives success, relaying stories from innovative organisations who have used service design and design thinking to gain a competitive advantage in their industries.

Our method is simple and scalable.  Which is why we are the world’s first Service Design Network Accredited Organisation.  If you’re ready to innovate and change the way you work, you can start today, and we can help you move quicker than you ever thought possible.

Get in touch to arrange a chat. We’d love to help.

Contact info@sda.ac.uk

The cost to business of having to address poor customer service shows how important the quality of the experience is – it’s not just the product or price, the actual service experience really matters.

Nothing stands still, as the last few months have abundantly demonstrated. With the resignation of the Prime Minister, an increasingly turbulent business environment and the cost-of-living crisis, there is a prevailing sense of flux and uncertainty.

If we reflect on recent news events, there has been a series of very public and serious service failures. Whether it’s chaos at Heathrow, disruption on our public transport networks, reports of late or cancelled deliveries, patients waiting years to be discharged from hospitals, fire services unable to answers all their calls or hosepipe bans and drought – it is evident that service provisions are being pushed close to breaking point in several sectors across the UK economy.

This links closely to the results of the July 2022 UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) – a national benchmark of customer satisfaction covering 13 sectors and based on 45,000 customer responses. 17.3% of customers experienced a problem with an organisation, the highest level ever recorded in the UKCSI.

The cost to business of having to address poor customer service is an astounding £9.2bn per month. This shows how important the quality of the experience is – not just the product or price. The actual service experience really matters, as household and business budgets become more squeezed.

These issues have been building for some time. A well-worn phrase, but 100% true is: “the definition of madness is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results”. Yet some organisations are stuck in the status quo – continually aiming to treat the basic problems in the same way and hoping for a different outcome.

Despite these chaotic times those who stay true to their customer service principles will weather the storm and position themselves as leaders in their fields.

Information about ikea stores

The reality is, with over £9bn in staff time wasted every month handling customer complaints – the business case for investing in service has already been made. Instead of cutting back, now is the time to be truly considering our long-term people and service strategies.

We can address these issues by investing in the right type of technology and people, but it is not one at the expense of the other. By undertaking the right training and development to ensure staff feel genuinely connected to the purpose of the organisation and able to act to improve the customer experience, organisations can not only enjoy better employee engagement and improved customer satisfaction, but also considerable productivity savings.

The summer months have given the team as SDA a chance to stop, reflect, and focus. It’s been our time for a re-set and re-think; genuinely adopting new and creative solutions and seeing service failures as an opportunity to learn strategically. From the challenges faced by our learners and customers, we’ve been discussing the importance of getting things right first time and of course the law of unintended consequences which can impact us all.

In planning our 22/23 training and education offering, we’ve been listening to our learners and customers through 121 meetings, calls, and feedback surveys. From this we are developing a streamlined, scheduled, and customised offering fit for the challenges and opportunities they’ll meet.

Our customers recognise that having a skilled workforce in these tough times to design services with the user at the heart will lead to satisfied customers and more efficiencies. This is reflected in growing demand with our Professional Development Award (PDA) selling out for August and new courses now being advertised for October 22 and January 23.

Find out more in our PDA Course Page

Does your organisation need a strategic pathway for growth and innovation, with service design as the foundation? Or do you need support yourself, as an aspiring or developing service designer, to drive the change needed?

Get in touch to arrange a chat. We’d love to help.

Contact info@sda.ac.uk

Changeworks is partnering with three housing associations to design an innovative new energy advice service for new tenants – with tenants themselves at its heart.

The project is being delivered in partnership with Changeworks, the Service Design Academy, Eildon Housing Association, Prospect Community Housing and West Granton Housing Cooperative. With the support of this new service, those moving into a new home will feel confident and secure in managing their energy and keeping their bills under control.

The innovate service design approach provides tenants with the opportunity to share their experiences and participate in the development of the new service. They will be joined by Housing Association staff members involved in managing tenant services, energy advisors and behaviour change specialists from Changeworks, and facilitators from the Service Design Academy.    

The project is funded by the William Grant Foundation and Changeworks and aims to create a scalable service that ensures tenants are energy confident as they enter a new tenancy. Once the service design phase is complete, it will be piloted across Housing Association partners at Eildon, Prospect and West Granton. 

Aidan Tracey, Low Carbon Communities Manager at Changeworks, said: “We know from our research that the majority of new tenants lack knowledge and skills to confidently manage their energy costs and ways to make their energy bills more affordable. This project will address this and design a service that creates energy confident tenants with the hope that it will prevent them falling into fuel poverty. 

We wanted to ensure tenants were central in this process and involved at the key service design stages. We’re thrilled to be working with our partners at the Service Design Academy, Eildon Housing Association, Prospect Community Housing and West Granton Housing Cooperative to make that a reality.”

Katie Murrie, Lead Consultant at the Service Design Academy, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Changeworks on this valuable project. Using a service design process for this project will empower tenants to fully participate alongside key Housing Association staff and Energy Advisors to ensure a robust and scalable service is designed.”

If you would like to find out more about the project, please contact Aidan Tracey via email at atracey@changeworks.org.uk.

For our interactive presentation at this year’s SCVO The Gathering we focussed on Assumptions and Biases and how these impact on our daily decisions when we are thinking about the services we deliver for our communities. 

The Gathering 2022 took place at Glasgow’s SEC on 15 and 16 June 2022, organised by SCVO, it’s the largest voluntary sector event in the UK. Over two days, amazing people from the voluntary sector and beyond came together to enjoy a packed programme of over 80 workshops, seminars, and training sessions.

2,000 delegates attended including voluntary sector staff, volunteers, board members and trustees from charities, social enterprises and community groups, politicians, academics and journalists, students, and members of the public. 

SDA joined forces with our partners at the Scottish Digital Academy, yes, that’s 2 x SDA’s, we know right! We find it confusing too ?

Over 100 delegates heard from Dean Rhodes, Senior Agile Coach about the Digital Academy and its Enhanced Course Offer where they select partners to deliver courses where they lack expertise or the capacity to deliver programmes. The Service Design Academy is one of their key partners delivering Service Design education and training programmes.

Assumptions and Biases impact on our daily decisions.  It’s something we cover in all our courses.

We used a technique called Breaking Down Assumptions and there was a great buzz in the room when we revealed our first assumption based persona was Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister! What’s the point of assumption-based personas?  They let you see exactly what our brains do when presented with information and the biases we make and take from that information.

This slide reads - Where do our biases or assumptions come from? The bullet points read 1. People are naturally biased. 2. Even when we intend to be completely fair, our brains have a hard time remaining impartial. 3. Biases form because of the human brain’s tendency to categorise new people and new information. 4. To learn quickly, the brain connects new people or ideas to past experiences.

Source: https://cpdonline.co.uk/knowledge-base/business/controlling-overcoming-unconscious-bias/

We explained that our biases are influenced by our:

and that these can get in the way of designing inclusive services.  As Kat Holmes, Author of Mismatch : How Inclusion Shapes Design says, “the things we make reflect our biases”.

So how might we innovate to deliver better services for our communities?

If we take a co-design approach to designing services, we encompass various methods and communications which lead to meaningful participation in design. 

A group of 3 people standing in a room looking at two sets of 6 photographs on a wall. The photos are taken from social media accounts and the people are creating a persona about that person based on the photos they post

A group of 2 people sitting in a room looking a set of 6 photographs on a wall. The photos are taken from social media accounts and the people are creating a persona about that person based on the photos they post
A group of peope sitting and standing in a room looking at photographs. They are working in groups of 2 or 3. The photos are taken from social media accounts and the people are creating a persona about that person based on the photos they post

Photos courtesy of Dean Rhodes on Twitter

User’s voice is at the heart of co-design, where engaging service users in developing and deciding on solutions that will affect them is essential to its success.

Through the power of User Research and Co-Design we can:

1  Reduce risk

2  Drive out inefficiency

3  Engage all stakeholders (removing biases and

4  Deliver Better Services

Thanks to everyone who signed up for, and attended our session, we look forward to continuing conversations with Scotland’s charities.

If you missed the session and would like a free copy of our slide deck please contact Maralyn Boyle

Welcome to a special news edition of SDA Insights. It’s your round-up of exciting things happening at SDA and some noteworthy items that have captured our attention in the wider Service Design world.

We know that your time is precious, so we’ll press on.

EduJam is back ……
In June Service Design Academy is a proud sponsor of EduJam, taking place live and in person at the wonderful V&A Dundee on the 10th, 11th and 12th of June.

If you’ve never jammed before………
A Jam is a creative space to explore ways to try out design-based approaches to problem solving, building networks. EduJam is inspired by GlobalJams and aims to provide an open and collaborative space for everybody passionate about the future of education. The Global Jams website tells you much more about the power of Jamming.

We’ll be joined by mentors including the founder of Global Jams, Adam St John Lawrence, co-author of “This is Service Design Doing” and visual facilitator Andy Du Vale of WorkVisible.

How can you get involved?

1. Take a look at our EduJam website  to find more about the event.

2. Follow us @EduJamUK on Twitter and Instagram for live updates.

3. Book now. There are ticket options to suit every pocket and sponsorship of this event has ensured that your ticket price covers the cost of refreshments over the weekend. You can book your EduJam tickets now or please get in touch for more information at                      edujam@sda.ac.uk

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Service Design Academy Short Courses – in demand

Companies and individuals have been in touch enquiring about the next dates for our short courses in the summer. We’d like to find out from our community what works best for you.

You can read more about what to expect with Welcome to Service Design 1-day course and Service Design for Innovation and Impact 5-day course.

If you are ready to start your service design journey with our live and online courses please fill out the doodle poll below and we’ll be straight back in touch.

Anyone who expresses an interest will get a 15% discount when booking.

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Inclusive And Accessible Design – Our new 2-day course is booking now 1st and 8th June – 10am – 4pm

This 2-day online introduction to Inclusive Design course has been developed and designed with industry experts and those experiencing barriers every day.

It’s perfect for any individual or group of colleagues to learn how a design approach can be used to improve the services, products, and experiences they deliver. Not only this but learners will leave with a plan to start to work more inclusively

You can read Inclusive and Accessible 2-day course information

You can book  Eventbrite: Inclusive and Accessible Design 2-day course

Not quite what you need? Find out more and register interest in all Service Design Academy short courses

Co-creating an innovative and sustainable framework to support community led projects

We’re delighted to share our recent work with The Wood Foundation and Russell Anderson Development School (RADS) through the Service Design Network Case Study Library. You can find out how we facilitated the creation of a new framework for community led projects which connect, engage and support young people in new ways through sport.

Read Service Design Network RADS Case Study to find out more.

Scottish Public Sector:  invitations for SDA to tender for service design training and education can now be made through Public Contract Scotland through the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for Digital Technology Services Dynamic Purchasing System – Lot 1. This DPS is available for Scottish Government, Councils, Colleges and Universities, health, third sector and other public sector organisations.

Good Luck Rory
After a year of Kickstart work experience, Rory Mertes, our Digital and Marketing Assistant has moved on for new and exciting opportunities.  The team wish Rory all the very best as he leaves his legacy of video resources we’ll continue to share. Ranging from the “Valued Voices” series to backgrounds on our courses, Rory has left a video record of SDA in action for us to build on.

Have a dip into the Service Design Video Library  

Don’t forget to join over 1,000 subscribers of our Service Design Academy Youtube channel who watched nearly 6,000 hours of our content last month. 

Professional Development Award Reflective Survey

Although we gather feedback regularly throughout learning labs and in 121s with our students to shape development and delivery of the course, we are keen to understand more about the longer-term impact from the course from students completing the course in the past 18 months. 

We were delighted to receive a 100% 5 star rating from respondents on recommending Service Design Academy to colleagues.

The comments below reflect motivations, expectations and impact of the course.

“Having no formal service design qualifications, the PDA was a great opportunity to get a qualification and foundation of knowledge relevant to my role while still delivering what I needed to be in my job”

“I hoped to gain a better understanding of the tools and methodologies and to become a confident and competent Service Designer”

“One huge change is the mindset of understanding customer needs first before focusing on a specific solution, the other big takeaway for me is being able to go on the journey of identifying these needs, exploring them deeper and ideating around potential outcomes before trialling and prototyping solutions”

When it came to asking for 3 words to describe the experience – this board says it all!

For more information about this survey or the Professional Development Award starting in August 2022 or January 2023, please get in touch info@sda.ac.uk

Have a look at Professional Development Award in Service Design Information (including Rory’s video!)

Service Design Network Accreditation

We are delighted to announce that Service Design Academy has been awarded organisational accreditation by the Service Design Network for the next three years.

In 2020 we were the first SDN accredited organisation in the world, and this is now a strong validation and recognition by the Service Design Network of the developing authority and quality of Service Design Academy in the provision of the following services at a consistently high standard to offer service design training and consultancy.

As a result of a successful accreditation, Service Design Academy will be recognised and promoted as a high-quality partner of the SDN and the SDN Academy, joining an exclusive and esteemed international network of outstanding SDN accredited organisations.

We want to thank Birgit Mager and Carolina Corona for their support and look forward to working together to build a global community of changemakers.

Read Service Design Academy Accreditation blog to find out more.

Learning Fest 22

The Service Design Network’s first ever student led Learning Fest (SDNLF22) is on the 21st and 22nd May.

The SDNLF22 is an international virtual conference connecting the next generation of service designers. Open to all disciplines, our goal is to facilitate learning and push the boundaries of service design to foster growth, together in synergy.

To find out more and register SDNLF22 details and booking form.

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Please do share and invite your colleagues to join our mailing list with Service Design Academy’s contact form

Please get in touch with any Service Design news you’d like us to share in our next issue info@sda.ac.uk

It is easy to understand the direct impact of Customer Experience on business success.  If a customer isn’t happy, it’s likely you’ll never see or hear from them again.  But the relationship between happy employees and their impact on growth and business performance is less obvious.  

Employee experience has never been so important for both employees and organisations.

We’re witnessing a generational change in the way we work and, in the employee/employer dynamic which we’ve only previously experienced following huge disruption, or industrial and technological revolutions. Now more than ever, preserving and protecting employee experience is a responsibility shared across the board and throughout leadership.

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Designing a powerful employee experience isn’t simply a tick box exercise for the HR team, it can have a significant impact on many aspects of an organisation. Research from MIT Centre for Information Systems Research shows that companies with the best employee experiences see dramatic business benefits when they get employee experience right.


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Companies who invest in Employee Experience, do four things, they:

1.Put people first

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

 2.Improve engagement

Recognise organisations as collections of human beings who are motivated by varying perspectives and emotions, they emphasise engagement, dialogue, and learning.

3.Collaborate and co-create

Work together and get inspired by what others are doing

4.Connect and Change

By involving staff in the definition of the problem and the development of solutions they garner a broad commitment to change.

It all starts with Design

Ultimately taking a service design approach to your employee experience will lead to noticeable benefits because developing great employee experiences isn’t a one size fits all approach people are different, companies are different and even in one business, roles and functions are different.

It is about treating people like people and understanding what detracts from people having a really positive experience at work whoever they are and whatever they are doing.

Interested in Designing your People Experience?

Check out https://www.sda.ac.uk/service-design-for-employee-experience/ or

Get in touch https://www.sda.ac.uk/contact/