Getting closer to citizens and service users to build empathy with their needs is an essential part of identifying new and innovative solutions that really resonate. Explore what this means in real life, and how it can be achieved on a practical level.

By taking a design thinking approach you are essentially placing the user at the centre of your design and innovation process. It’s can be easy to misinterpret information you already have available to you and second guess what users need or expect from a product, service or system. But by building empathy, observing citizens in their daily environment, asking directly, and involving them in the co-creation of solutions you can better understand the problems and identify (sometimes unexpected) solutions that really hit the mark. A design-led approach also plays a role in engaging citizens by involving them in the development process.

In this section, a we have identified a selection of case studies to illustrate what it means to have a user focus. Explore the role of empathy: how can designers build real empathy for the people who will be affected, and use this to deliver the best possible results?

Learning how to be open to uncertainty and surprise is also a key part of taking a user-centred approach. If you involve service users in a design process, they’re not going to have any concept of what the limitations may be. You can’t control what they’re going to come up with, which can seem frightening! Yet this ability to explore without restrictions and constraints is exciting and creative. It can build deeper understanding, spark new insights – and connect you back more strongly to your mission as a public servant to make positive changes for citizens and society.