Choosing your first project
Making it happen is about understanding and applying design methods, rolling your sleeves up and getting practical. But where do you start? What project, challenge or issue do you tackle first? How do you identify the one or two projects that will provide you with the opportunity to test and demonstrate impact and results?
Tackle real things
Choose the topic with the most potential for real stuff to happen! This usually means something with an implementation focus. A project may be great to work on at concept stage, but because of its early stage it might not progress much further. Instead, choose a project where there is the greatest chance of implementing and changing real things.
Think across the silos
Choose a subject that is the most cross-disciplinary or cross-sector. Avoid choosing ones that are more in silos, and instead pick projects that have links between different areas (for example, two different ministries or departments). Service users don’t see things in silos! Designing in a cross-disciplinary approach will bring user perspective, and real value.
Involve people in the project
Choose a subject that is outward-facing; something where you can engage citizens. Starting with something too bureaucratic and inward-facing might just confirm what you think you already know. Since design involves deeper engagement with users, you will gain immediate added value by choosing a project where you can interact with real service users.
Choose a project that is high up in the political agenda. Identify something that is visible and already a known problem or challenge. It could be a great way to win immediate support and backing from those who are also struggling to know how to approach the problem with a fresh perspective.
Make it interesting
Don’t force people into working on it. Instead, pick areas where people really want to get involved and make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Be positive and clear in how you articulate the opportunity, choosing the right language and tone that connects with their day to day experience.
Top tip: Why not consider building a matrix tool to help you classify and score potential projects? You can use it to prioritise against the five areas above.
With thanks to Stéphane Vincent (co-founder and director of La 27e Région) and Sonja Dahl (senior programme manager at Nesta) for sharing their insights and advice on how to choose your first project.