The VISUAL project supports Lancashire County Council in England in their effort to transform the way that they deliver services. The Council is responsible for a huge variety of services to over a million people in the North West of England. These services include libraries, schools, highways, social care, environment, public health, waste and trading standards.
Tony Roberts, Senior Public Health Coordinator for the Council explained why they are looking for a new approach, “In Lancashire, we are embarking on the most significant shift in the way we deliver services in over a generation. We are moving away from a traditional ‘public service’ approach of delivering services to people and towards a more empowering approach – exploring innovative ways of securing the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the people and communities of Lancashire.”
This change in approach has led the Council to exploring different ways of going about designing services. “We aim to design services around the expectations and experiences of the people who use them, not of the people who manage them”, Tony explained. “That means having a much better understanding of how their contact with us makes sense within the context of how they live their lives.”
In order to explore different design approaches to bring into the council, Tony attended the International ServDes 2014 conference in Lancaster. “It was exciting to have such a major international conference on our doorstop, but also slightly disappointing that it was only 10 miles up the road and not in some exotic location on the other side of the world!
“I’m not a design practitioner, so many of the presentations were lost on me – very heavy on theory and research language – but the presentation by VISUAL really stood out as being grounded in the real world and having practical value in helping us to better understand the journeys our citizens go on when using our services.”
“We’ve been developing personas of the people who use our services the most so that we can track how they use our many services at different points in their lives. This is helping us understand how we can organise very different services to align with people’s lived experiences.”
“For example, if an elderly person reports a problem with the pavement outside their house, then that would typically go through to our highways department. However, we need to also be able to consider that person’s mobility and frailty, which might then trigger a social care assessment. The VISUAL Language gives us a practical, standardised tool for mapping out those journeys, looking for key touch points and better aligning our delivery to meet people’s needs.”
The universal language of VISUAL is also an appeal for engaging vulnerable and excluded groups in service design. “The design of the symbols will help when doing customer journey mapping with people who have more limited language skills, are less articulate or have disability. Many of our services are for people with learning difficulties and mental health problems, who might find wordy documents a barrier to their participation.”