In May 2015, we knew we had to take the opportunity to join a ‘Design in the Public Sector’ programme run by the Design Council for South West England councils. The challenge for Jo, Carl and I was to increase participation in the Devon County Council organisation’s goals through learning and engagement. Linked to our recently developed Operating Model describing a framework for change, which in many ways has yet to be realised and our quest was to use the programme to try and solve this problem.

We were excited about the programme and we had tried a few ideas already, for example, an Innovation Newsletter, but really these were just guesses – we hadn’t asked what people really wanted, we were hoping to be able to go back and clarify the problem we were trying to solve, giving us space to gain new insights and learning. The first two days in July were full-on, generating hundreds of new thoughts about the challenge we are facing. We were exposed to Design Council’s Double Diamond approach. So many solutions are created for the wrong problem, so time spent understanding what we think our issue is and checking it out is time well spent.

As the three of us walked away from the venue and back towards Bristol Temple Meads after the first two days had finished on Friday we laughed as we said to each other “we can’t believe it was only yesterday morning we started”. Such was the intensity of the two days, packed full of challenge, opportunity, learning and amazing conversations with peers and people from outside the sector who inspired us, our way of working and thinking had shifted. I am forever surprised how new ideas emerge from a combination of spending focus and energy on the challenge and letting go of previous ideas.

On day three in September, after a quick progress review, we jumped straight into an excellent masterclass by Becky Rowe. We were looking forward to this session as we were inspired by Becky when we spoke to her over dinner on our first day in Bristol. She told us a story about work she had been involved in concerning reducing violent behaviour against staff and patients in A&E, which used the process, methodologies and triangulation of insight to reframe the problem and identify an appropriate response. The word ‘triangulation’ has been used ever since and seems to be cropping up in many places!

We still have more days to come but after the first three days we are really sold on the three design principles of being person-centred, working visually (though we have also realised that our working environment is less than ideal for this) and being collaborate and iterative – our thoughts and solutions are destined to change in the future!

You can find more of our ramblings and reflections at- @kev_bo @joprincewhite @carlhaggery