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SPIDER (Supporting Public Service Innovation using Design in European Regions) is a project funded by the European Commisssion’s Interreg IVB programme to deliver innovative solutions to Europe’s toughest social challenges.

At the heart of the project is service design, a powerful innovation process which they believe can deliver significant cost and efficiency savings for public services.

Watch an introductory video about the SPIDER project

Watch an introductory video about the SPIDER project

By the end of the project in September 2015 SPIDER team will have have trained more than 600 civil servants in the management of service design, running 9 demonstration projects and developing training materials.

We talked to SPIDER’s Adrian O’Donoghue about the what the project has achieved, and what has been learned along the way.

What are the key results and successes of the project?

The key successes of the SPIDER project were three things from my perspective:

(i) through the application of service design we have proven that public services can become more innovative, dynamic and responsive to the needs of users to address key societal challenges around independent living for older people and youth unemployment.

(ii) We have built capacity through the provision of ‘learning by doing’ service design training to 600 public servants.

(iii) We have clearly seen an appetite and appreciation for the process of service design once public servants have the opportunity to be exposed to this approach. It is clear that there is a real need for the greater integration of service design in the public sector across Europe to rapidly address serious and wide-ranging public service challenges, inefficiencies and reforms.

What were the main challenges and limitations that we can learn from?

The main challenges for increasing the application of service design in the public sector are the lack of knowledge that currently exists, the deficit in terms of the training provision and the low levels of ‘creative confidence’ that prevail in terms of exploring new and different ways of achieving better outcomes.

Rigour is essential in how we develop good services – successful service provision is not accidental and needs greater thought. We therefore need to need to learn that talking to the client is an important part of public service provision – they are the ‘customers’ of these services and without satisfying their needs (which can be achieving by involving them in the design of their service) there will continue to be inefficiencies in how we deliver public services.

What is left and where do you see the next step (in particular considering the aim of changing culture of public authorities)?

It is important that we continue to expose the benefits of service design to those in charge of delivering public services. We need to see service design training as a core requirement for those developing public services and a greater willingness to move away from traditional approaches to generating solutions to public service challenges.

The next steps vary from country to country however, the conversation needs to be maintained between the service design community and the public sector. Initiatives such as the Service Design in Government Conference UK and the SPIDER final conference present opportunities for networking and for bringing the message through best practices to new audiences. Embedding service design/design thinking in the education system and make it a cross-cutting module in 1st, 2nd and 3rd level education will have long term benefits to how we deliver our services in to the future.

What do you hope to see from Design for Europe?

I look forward to seeing Design for Europe actively promote the application of service design as a significant tool of for public service reform and innovation. Service design needs to be given real and serious focus over the period of the Design for Europe initiative and the SPIDER project partners will be happy to support this in any way that we can.