Our Innovation Lab was set up in January to work on two explicit projects, as well as creating a space to learn about how we can become a more innovative council.
Recently these two projects reached major milestones – not endings, but the beginning of a new phase for each. We worked with FutureGov to go through a double diamond design methodology on one project looking at how we can make the SEN transport service more financially sustainable while increasing independence for the children and families who use it, and a second shorter project on how we can get started towards our ambition of making Bexley the easiest Council to pay.
As those of you familiar with design projects will be aware, the end of four month’s work doesn’t mean that we have a shiny new service ready to reveal and roll-out. What we do have are small-scale prototypes that we have tested with users, which demonstrate opportunities to develop new services for which we know there is a demand. We also have a roadmap for how to continue to use design methodologies to iterate our prototypes and keep learning from users as we gradually build up these ideas to develop new service offers.
Importantly, we also have a group of people who’ve been sparked by design – whether by attending a lunchtime learning session, going out and conducting user research with FutureGov or working in an agile way through sprints, stand ups and show and tells. Capability transfer was a key objective of this work, and we’re already planning ways to sustain the energy and enthusiasm around these new techniques and ways of working.
We didn’t know where these projects would take us when we first started, and it feels safe to say that the design process has stretched our thinking further than we expected to get, enabling us to gain new perspectives of the problem and therefore get to different solutions.
Members, managers and staff from these services will continue to evaluate the prototypes and interrogate options for taking them forwards. Although this piece of work with FutureGov is closing down, the Lab remains open for business, with new digital transformation projects moving in to take over the post-its, and a growing ‘Inspiration Wall’ to remind us of everything we’ve learnt so far.