Monday, 15 October 2007

Four months on…. The Initial Project Application (IPA)

It’s now 4 months into my PhD and I have spent the past months transitioning from Australia to the UK; from big city to regional city; from full-time work to full-time student and while it has been a bit of a roller-coaster challenge, the dust has finally begun to settle.

Over the past months I have spent time getting to know the projects and the designers who have worked on them. I have also spent time with the Dott 07 Management Team and the Design Council. I have found conversation to be a powerful learning tool, especially with the lack of Service Design literature on designing public services (two key references here are the work of the former RED unit of the Design Council and Jim Collin’s monograph titled, ‘Good to Great and the Social Sector’).

The designers have especially helped me with recognising what have been the most topical and challenging issues in Service Design, and I thank everyone who has spent time talking with me.

The IPA is a research proposal I have to submit to the Northumbria University for approval of my study over the next 3 years. The University also needs to know that I will be making an original contribution to knowledge.

Here’s a brief overview of what I submitted (and the Panel just reviewed it today). My working title is:

Understanding the role of Design Practice in public design commission projects, and their broader relevance to Service Design contexts.

To flesh this out, I will be looking at the design practice (that is the methods, processes, tools, techniques and roles of the designer) used in the Dott 07 public sector projects. I will be looking at 7 projects, which used Service Design-type practices. These projects are:

1. Alzheimer 100
2. Design and Sexual Health (DaSH)
3. Low Carb Lane
4. Move Me
5. New Work
6. Our New School
7. Urban Farming

These 7 projects will form a case study, which will build evidence and an argument for the value and role of design in public sector services.

My original contribution to knowledge lies in thinking about Dott 07 as an artificial ecosystem, created by the Design Council, for designers to experiment and play in. The implications of this mean that there are conditions bespoke to the Dott 07 programme, that may not be relevant to the broader context. For example, the tolerance of failure in Dott 07 projects may be higher because the funding partners (the Design Council and One NorthEast) are not going to pull the plug like a commercial client might if things go a bit hairy. What I intend to do is identify what is bespoke to Dott 07 and what can be applied in the ‘real-world’ of Service Design. I hope to make a contribution here to the embryonic discipline and along the way, design a method to do this. I know that designers, researchers, academics are creating these artificial ecosystems all the time, but how do you then transfer and apply the knowledge and ensure a legacy?

To further illustrate what I mean, the Designing for Services project at Said Business School, Oxford University is a programme of similar nature.

A bit about Dott

Designs of the Time (Dott ) is a ten-year programme, to be initiated every two years in a different region of the UK. Each Dott consists of a suite of public commission projects utilising design-led interventions (i.e. Design processes, methods, tools and the roles of designers) to involve people (the public) in designing solutions to local issues. The key issues were:

- Education
- Energy
- Food
- Health
- Tourism
- Movement (transport)

The first Dott (Dott 07) was undertaken in North East England between 2005 and 2007.

To celebrate the projects, a showcase Festival will begin tomorrow on the Tyne River at Baltic Square. I will be blogging updates of the Festival here.

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