The Scottish Approach to Service Design (SAtSD)

The vision for the Scottish Approach to Service Design is that the people of Scotland are supported and empowered to actively participate in the definition, design and delivery of their public services (from policy making to live service improvement).


“This is not solely a matter of fiscal necessity but a once-in-ageneration opportunity to implement radical reforms that will provide improved public services that are better focused on the needs of the people they seek to support.” - Christie Commission

The publication of Campbell Christie’s ‘Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services’ in 2011 was considered the beginning of a radical roadmap to better public services.

This described:

  • empowering individuals and communities receiving public services by involving them in the design and delivery of the services they use
  • collaboration between public service providers, to integrate service provision
  • prioritising spend on public services with a focus on early intervention
  • reducing duplication and sharing services wherever possible, across public, third and private sectors

Engaging citizens in the delivery of services is a fundamental part of what Christie talked about, and is of course integral to public sector reform: Changing the way an organisation delivers by putting a focus on users, introducing new ways of working and using technology as an enabler for change.

However, all too often we can see the challenges are present much earlier in the process of service delivery - and the current makeup of the public sector does not readily provide an environment to allow the design of public services around user needs. Service transformation may work for an organisation, but how does that extend to a public sector which has a collective responsibility to deliver services in a holistic and joined-up way?

A Scottish Approach

The ‘Scottish Approach to Service Design’ describes design as a way of exploring the problem space openly, collaboratively and with users, before a solution or service is decided. A method of exploring problems that remove organisational or sectoral boundaries. A way of working that should be present at the very heart of government policy, bringing otherwise disparate parts of the public sector around a common goal.

There must now be an ask of senior leaders within Scotland’s public sector to rethink the role they play in this ecosystem, to embrace the principles of the Scottish Approach to Service Design, and to be bold in creating the conditions for design thinking in government.


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