DesignSingapore Council, Ministry of Communications & Information

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The development of government policies, programmes and services has been driven mostly by lead agencies, guided by quantitative research studies and steered through consultative committees comprising private enterprise and community stakeholders. This initiative seeks to introduce a structured approach to understanding the unarticulated needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of the population such as the elderly and persons with disabilities who have complex needs that affect all aspects of a person’s life, from daily living to integration with society and the community at large. These needs, challenges and obstacles that they face are often not well understood, and may lead to gaps in the policies, programmes and services rolled out by the agencies.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
This initiative, entitled “Design for Public Service Transformation” (PST), brings together partner agencies on a safe and collaborative platform to kick-start service innovation through design. In the process, opportunity areas for design-driven innovation in the delivery of public services are identified, a deep understanding of citizen needs is developed, and community stakeholders are engaged with designers to brainstorm and co-create solutions that matter to citizens. Lead agencies will subsequently prototype some of the arising ideas and solutions to improve lives.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
This initiative helped to reframe complex societal issues such as ageing and inclusiveness, which can only be effectively addressed through close cooperation across multiple government agencies. The initiative provided a neutral platform that allowed government agencies to go beyond their organisational silos, and come together to design public services, starting with citizens. The “Design for Public Service Transformation” aims to: a) Identify common challenges of faced by the most vulnerable population groups, like the elderly and persons with disabilities, when interacting with public services; looking across healthcare and social service ecosystems and key community facing agencies that deliver services such as transportation, social services, family care, healthcare and education. b) Gain a better understanding of these vulnerable groups’ needs and learn from insights to their behaviour through in-depth ethnography studies and persona creation; c) Brainstorm with a team of designers and stakeholders in translating the insights into potential solutions; and d) Work with a lead agency to pilot the proposed design solutions and create models that are scalable for wider roll-out.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
This initiative utilises a highly collaborative, design-driven model that starts from understanding the citizen’s point of view to drive the creation of public policy, programmes and services. The initiative went beyond traditional methods used to advise service development and delivery, for example, focus group discussions and quantitative research methods such as surveys and general statistical data. In addition, a deep ethnographic research method targeting broad segments of the target population was used, with methodologies consisting of understanding “a day in the life of” through shadowing and contextual interviews, expert interviews, and a series of co-creation workshops, studio sessions, and sharing sessions to deeply engage stakeholders. To effectively drive innovation for public services, multiple levels of engagement were needed - from galvanising an influential champion to drive the project, bridging policy development to front line service delivery, to citizen engagement. The citizen centred research yielded a rich collection of research themes, insights, and personas, which supported participating agencies and vested stakeholders in their ideation and prototyping of new service concepts.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The initiative was run by the DesignSingapore Council, the national agency for design in Singapore. Two projects were carried out as part of this initiative, namely: “Design for Ageing Gracefully: Rethinking Health & Wellness for the Elderly”, in partnership with the Ministry of Health; as well as “The Path to…Designing for Persons with Disabilities”, in partnership with the National Council of Social Service. The vision of the DesignSingapore Council is for design to develop Singapore into an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city. As the national agency for design, the Council’s mission is to develop the design sector, and to help Singapore use design for innovation and growth, as well as to make life better. The DesignSingapore Council is part of the Ministry of Communications and Information. By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be over 65 years old. About 100,000 persons with disabilities will benefit from inclusive design and public services. Over 400 stakeholders were engaged through the initiative. These include agency representatives ranging from public policy development such as the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social and Family, to public organisations that offer frontline services such as Alexandra Health Services and SingHealth, to non-government organisations such as MINDS, Lions Befrienders and Jamiyah Nursing Home. Stakeholders from across the private sector, such as Grab, Retail Access, and Mediacorp were also involved throughout the co-creation and studio sessions.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Design for Public Service Transformation initiative seeks to address the perception that government lacks empathy through the injection of citizen’s perspectives into the planning and delivery of policies and services. A public-private approach was taken, with the core team working closely with a lead design consultancy with experience in the field of trend analysis, ethnography, insights translation. The initiative is a fully-funded project by DesignSingapore Council, to test and pilot a design-led approach towards public service innovation. Respective lead agencies will fund subsequent development of selected prototypes and applied projects.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The initiative was conceptualised and led by DesignSingapore, in collaboration with partner agencies: Ministry of Health (Design for Ageing Gracefully-Rethinking Health and Wellness for Elderly) and National Council of Social Service (The Path to…Designing for Persons with Disabilities). For both projects, participatory workshops and co-creation sessions were used to engage relevant civil servants, non-government organisations, citizens, designers and technology professionals, to contribute their experiences, attitudes and innovative ideas. These sessions incorporated reflective and idea generation exercises, and immersive activities to allow participants to provide input on both problems and solutions.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
As a whole, the initiative produced a collection of 31 insights that provided a glimpse into the lives and challenges faced by elderly and persons with disabilities in Singapore. The process, insights and outcomes were also documented in a series of publications that reached out to over 3,700 readers. These insights were applied to inform the development of two masterplans for the sectors, the Action Plan for Successful Ageing, for seniors in Singapore, and the 3rd Enabling Masterplan, for the disability sector. These masterplans outline recommendations and strategies for the sectors to work towards helping Singaporeans age successfully, and to build a caring and inclusive society for persons with disabilities. The insights were also applied in a residential development for seniors, Kampung Admiralty. Kampung Admiralty is an integrated residential development that integrates housing for seniors with modern technology, public amenities and facilities. Stakeholders from public agencies were brought together with private sector operators to co-create innovative solutions to increase engagement and integration in the community for seniors, looking beyond infrastructure to also consider services and experiences. This development will be ready in 2018. Through a comprehensive process of deep research into citizen insights and continual stakeholder engagement on multiple levels, the initiative has achieved its goal of catalysing innovation in the public service to deliver better public services. These allow public agencies to deliver more citizen-centric services that help make Singapore an inclusive, loveable city for everyone, regardless of physical abilities or challenges.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Throughout the implementation of the initiative, continual stakeholder engagement was required to convince key stakeholders of the value of qualitative research towards developing a deep understanding of citizen insights. Stakeholders had to be encouraged to take up a fresh, unknown approach that was foreign to organisations used to quantitative methods. Case studies were also used to illustrate and articulate the value of a human-centred design approach, however, this was difficult as these pioneering efforts in the human-centred design thinking process had not seen wide utilisation in the public service in Singapore, and relevant case studies were limited. The translation of insights into actionable strategies and initiatives also posed some difficulty for stakeholder organisations. To overcome this, the stakeholders were involved directly in co-creation sessions where various illustrative concepts were developed from the insights. This allowed stakeholders to experience directly the process of developing relevant services from citizen insights, and to transfer these skills back in their home organisations.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The initiative has spurred the delivery of more citizen-centric public services and policies through greater adoption of the human centred design process in the public sector. This enables public servants to better understand citizen needs, and develop relevant public services for marginalised and vulnerable groups in Singapore. Through the application of the insights derived from the initiative in the two masterplans for the sectors, the Action Plan for Successful Ageing, and the 3rd Enabling Masterplan, concrete strategies for improving the experiences of the elderly and persons with disabilities have been developed, for example tapping on volunteers to befriend seniors at home or accompany them to medical appointments. Through the engagement of potential operators of senior activity centres and childcare centres in the co-creation of integrated services at Kampung Admiralty, operators were encouraged to roll out services that: • create more opportunities for inter-generational interaction • provide bite-sized job opportunities to seniors The development will be ready in 2018, and the integrated services are expected to provide opportunities to increase engagement and integration in the community for seniors. The initiative also directly engaged VWOs that deliver frontline services to develop and pilot services that enhance accessibility and quality of life for persons with disabilities, for example the Box of Joy, a service that delivers interesting objects and experiences to persons with disabilities who may experience difficulty leaving the home. Several VWOs like CPAS have indicated an interest to pilot this service.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)

Contact Information

Institution Name:   DesignSingapore Council, Ministry of Communications & Information
Institution Type:   Ministry  
Contact Person:   Huey Ying Gan
Title:   Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   +6568379893
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   111 Middle Road, National Design Centre
Postal Code:   188969
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore

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