Understanding the value that design-led innovation can bring to the public sector is a crucial first step in being able to articulate the benefits and share this effectively with others.

There is increasing pressure to evolve our public services to better meet the needs and expectations of our citizens, and doing this in the face of tight fiscal constraints means that we must work smarter. Design can play an important role in helping us do that, and across the globe we’re seeing more and more evidence that design-led methods and approaches can be central to transforming our public services. We have captured many examples on this website in order to share these approaches and showcase the difference they can make.

Whether you’re considering trying a new approach to an old problem, or wondering how to sum up the benefits and communicate a compelling story to stakeholders in order to bring them along with you on your journey, this learning module is the place to start. The content has been brought together in a way which should connect with some of the challenges you are facing and provide some support for overcoming these barriers.

We know that it can be difficult to respond to increasing demands in a sector that often struggles to take risks and think outside the box. The examples signposted here will help you to find inspiration through understanding how others have tackled similar problems. They will also help you see the power of building a narrative around design-led projects and using evidence in a compelling way. Drawing on the key themes and wisdom of the three-year Design for Europe programme, the learning content here brings together a lot of the thinking and debate from a community that is growing quickly.

The use of design approaches in the public sector is a growing trend. Yet it’s still a new approach for many, and understanding the value is crucial to being able to make the change and move towards human-centred design.

Why design?

Firstly, it’s important to highlight that design isn’t a silver bullet. Nor does it replace any of the other complementary and existing approaches for policymaking and public services. But it can be a vital addition to the mix, and particularly helpful in generating deeper understanding of users’ needs and fresh insights into the nature of the problem.

The case studies mentioned throughout this module also give examples of design-led innovation in practice, and you can follow up with these teams and more by exploring this interactive map, which shares details of innovation teams and projects across Europe and acts as a starting point for exploration.

There’s plenty of evidence showing the practical value of design when it comes to specific projects, but it’s also worth acknowledging the impact that design-led innovation can have on the broader culture. There’s great value for an organisation’s culture from peer group learning, raising awareness of design practice, and building confidence. It’s energising to learn new skills, and to turn an old problem on its head and look at solving it in a new way. And designing services that are more user-friendly can boost morale enormously. Many people enter the public sector because they want to change people’s lives for the better, and user-centred design practices align with that motivation.