Essex County Council

Design Thinking for a County Council

Service Design
How We Trained ECC in Design Thinking

Between March and June 2016, PDR worked with Essex County Council (ECC) to build capacity for design thinking among senior advisors and commissioners to raise awareness of the method and create champions for the approach within the council.

We developed an applied learning programme of four workshops based on the PDR design process to ensure the efficient transfer of knowledge and skills in this project. Hands-on sessions focused on the theme of physical activity among young people in Harlow and took place in the real-life context to give ECC first-hand experience of applied design methods that they will be able to use in the future. Due to the training purpose of the project, the programme focused on two first phases of the design process, providing recommendations for the further possible actions.

The Explore stage consisted of two sessions:
  • Greenhouse – an introductory, awareness raising ‘design sprint’ workshop, and
  • Deep Dive workshop, where the challenge was explored in detail with pupils from two schools in Harlow. By gaining insight into the needs, experiences and daily routines of primary and secondary school pupils, ECC were able to identify the motivations and barriers to physical activity among young people in Harlow.

The second stage of design process was about creating new solutions to the needs and problems identified through the user research. The training for the Elaborate phase was delivered in two sessions:
  • Co-Creation workshop – aimed at expanding the ability to generate new concepts with users and refine them.
  • Prototyping workshop – where ECC learned how to turn concepts into workable services, that can be prototyped, tested and further refined with users; as well as how ‘provocations’ can be used to conceptualise the future implications of service or policy ideas.

The outputs from the project include the Design Thinking Handbook containing the design model and 11 tools, a mini-film of the experiences shared by parents, teachers and young people, storyboards of five service concepts and three policy concepts as well as this report reviewing the process and making recommendations for further action. 
We hope that the lessons from the training will permeate throughout the council, particularly through the promotion of the Essex Design Thinking Handbook and we look forward to hearing how the ideas move into testing and implementation. 

“A professionally developed and executed practical application of design thinking methodologies.”


Contact Us

Dr Anna Whicher Head of Design Policy
Professor Andrew Walters Director of Research