Blog Post

Thinking about service and human centred design, a conversation with Aletheia Délivré

By: Marco Campana
September 10, 2021

In this Technology in Human Services podcast episode I chat with Aletheia Délivré about service and human centred design. She is currently a Design Manager with the Government of Canada and an Organizational Development consultant doing service design at AlphaPlus, an Ontario nonprofit that helps adult literacy education professionals to incorporate digital technology in their work.

I came across Aletheia’s work in a converation with AlphaPlus about digital literacy during a recent project. She works out loud, sharing, musing, connecting with other service designers on Twitter, which I love and think is both incredibly helpful, and brave. I’ve been meaning to connect with a service designer for some time on the podcast. As I read about and how she shared her work, approach, struggles, and successes, I knew she was the right person to reach out to. I’m grateful that she agreed to chat, and I think you’ll find our conversation insightful, fun, and useful for your nonprofit work.

Resources:

Where you can find and learn from Aletheia:

Some core questions we started with:

What is service design and user experience, and what should nonprofits know about it? How can it help them? How can implementing a design and user experience process help nonprofits create better services?

How are service design principles and approaches different from other approaches to creating services in nonprofits? How are they the same?

You’ve worked in agency and consulting firms, government, and nonprofits. What are the unique challenges or differences in service design work in these different cultures and contexts?

For the non-professional service designer, what are some core skills, attitudes, and beliefs that any nonprofit staff should develop to build into their work creating services for their clients and communities?

Can you tell me a bit about your experience at AlphaPlus? You’ve written about using a design approach to find the why of your job there as well as to help re-envision the organization’s why?

How has service design impacted AlphaPlus?

You’re also working as a Design Manager with the Canadian Government. In many departments, entire service design units and labs have been set up to bring service design into the public service. How have you found the ability to do service design and impact service delivery in a better resourced environment?

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using Otter.ai. The transcript has not been edited. It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.

Marco Campana 0:00
Welcome to Episode 31 of the technology and Human Services podcast. In this episode, I chat with a lithia delivery about service and Human Centered Design. She’s currently a design manager with the Government of Canada and our organizational development consultants doing service design at alphaplus, and Ontario nonprofit that helps adult literacy education professionals to incorporate digital technology in their work. I came across a lithium work in a conversation with alphaplus, about digital literacy during a recent project. She works out loud sharing music and connecting with other service designers on Twitter, which I love, and I think is both incredibly helpful and brave. I’ve been meaning to connect with a service designer for some time on the podcast. As I read about how she shared her work, approach struggles and successes, I knew she was the right person to reach out to. I’m grateful that she agreed to chat. And I think you’ll find our conversation insightful, fun and useful for your nonprofit work.

Marco Campana 0:51
Welcome to the technology and Human Services podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, I wonder if you can give me a little bit of background about yourself how you came into the work in service design and user experience and what that’s meant for your, for your work in nonprofits and in government now?

Aletheia Delivre 1:06
Sure, so thanks, first of all, Marco for inviting me to the to the podcast, and obviously very fascinated by the world of Human Centered Design and how it pertains to tech and social impact for myself, but in terms of my own journey, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. So I spent most of my 20s actually trying new things, learning new things, experiencing new cultures like traveling before stumbling upon

Aletheia Delivre 1:32
a field that finally seemed where I finally felt like I belonged. And I could grow in. And so that is, that is design. But formally, I have a background in biology in French, and then two masters in international affairs. So that led me this is kind of a weird, eclectic combination that led me to work abroad for four years. So in Brussels, and in Strasbourg, in Paris. And then during that period, I was mostly working for international institution. So like UNESCO, and then there’s the European Commission, and then the French government, before finally transitioning to a consulting firm that specializes in public sector innovation. And so I guess, like, eventually, that’s how I discovered service design through that consulting firm, because there was a lot of design thinking going going on. user experience was starting to become a thing in, in the public sector in in France. And so looking at it through the lens of public sector innovation, I really think like, the public sector is a prime candidate like public sector, and basically any service that, that interfaces with humans is like a prime candidate for exploring the benefits of true service design. So when we talk about improving the users experience, it’s like akin to improve improving the experience of every single person who needs to use public service, or any, you know, customer facing experience. So that’s just about everybody.

Marco Campana 3:04
Right? Absolutely. I love it. I love the background. I love listening to people come to this through the way they come to their work through very different means. I was interviewing someone the other day, who’s a cybersecurity expert and a cybersecurity interpreter. And you know her about her background with social work before she kind of came into it. So I think it’s wonderful to hear kind of how people meander and the the experiences they bring into into different professions and things like that. So when we talk about improving the user experience, is that essentially the foundation of service design? Or what is service design, if you would sort of broadly define it? And what should nonprofits in particular know about it?

Aletheia Delivre 3:39
So, I mean, service design is quite a broad field. And there are a lot of different definitions that are out there. And I mean, I could probably, like, quote you from Nielsen Norman’s group, but I think the one that I really I guess I could, that I really like or that sticks to, for me, at least in service design is one that’s that was kind of put forward by 31 volts. So they have I think fjord did this like really cool video that shows like The Tale of Two coffee shops. And so like, I simply put, it’s like, so I’ll read it. Here’s like when you have two coffee shops right next to each other, and each sells the exact same coffee at the exact same price. service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other. So there’s like a lot of it, you know, most great services don’t just happen like miraculously they’re designed for and the service design piece is it for me the the big thing is taking into account all these different components of the different people that are involved the processes, the tools. And when we I think one differentiating aspect of service design is that it takes into account not just the end user, so not just like let’s say the person who’s going to be ordering food on an Uber app, but it’s also thinking about the person who’s delivering that food and who needs to get paid from that, you know, from that experience with that app application, the drivers and the delivers, etc. So it’s like thinking about both the target user or the customer, but also the employee and linking service outcomes to the experience of the employee and all the channels that need to support the backstage sort of experience that that then translates into a better front stage experience.

Marco Campana 5:33
Okay, and yeah, I mean, I find that’s really useful, because I hear a lot of people talk about service design and the customer experience, but not so much the provider experience. And so I think creating that that holistic picture is really useful. And I wonder is that is that a common approach to service design is looking at it from that entire perspective, because a lot of times, when, when I, when I hear from nonprofits or organizations, and they hear things like service design, or customer experience, they feel like, oh, they’re going to come and tell us, we were doing it all wrong. And they’re not going to take into account our perspective and things like that. And I know that recently, and currently, you’re having an experience with alphaplus, for example, which is an organization that supports digital infrastructure for literacy organizations in Ontario. And I’m curious, you’ve written about it, and I’ll share some of the the writing in the show notes. But how, how has that sort of holistic vision? How have you used the holistic vision you just described, like the the end user, the customer, the client, as well as the provider, in re envisioning their their approach to the work that they do?

Aletheia Delivre 6:33
That’s a great, a great question. In terms of the application, I think of service design in an actual real world context. So first, I mean, should preface that a lot of the services I work, usually, we don’t see immediate outcomes, and they usually the horizon, they say, on average is about one to two years before you actually start seeing the fruit of your work. So in a way, it always feels like it’s a work in progress, you know. And so we have over the last, I’ve been at alpha plus for about about a year now a little less than a year, and have started a few initiatives. And those are the ones that I’ve kind of written about, and I’ve dabbled in. And it’s still very much, you know, a work in progress, too. But I’d say that, for in terms of how it’s been key to improving or kind of key to bridging the employee experience and the impact on the customer. There has been, for example. So I’ll give just a concrete example, one thing that we experimented with is mapping out a blueprint of one of our core services. So one of the core services that alphaplus provides is a coaching, so direct coaching service with these literacy organizations in Ontario. And so they’re paired with a coach from alpha plus, that then works them through digital, like integrating digital technologies into their teaching strategy. And so at the time, when I joined, there were many people who were had like different documents about this coaching service. And because they had been at the organization for so long, like I’m talking about, like maybe a decade or more, then it’s kind of like second nature to them. And so I was a new hire. And there was no formal like documentation that streamline in a kind of, like consistent way like this, these are the steps that need to be, you know, carried out x y Zed. And so you can imagine that if I’m, for example, you know, if I’m unclear in this case, it was I was provided with the opportunity to kind of like, you know, I guess, like, settle in, so there was like, time provided and shadowing, but imagine, you know, that the timeline was shorter. And then, you know, if I’m unclear about a process, or I’m using a different document than someone else is using or all the data is kind of gathered in, like a discordant way like the you know, in different areas, then get imagine that that would have an impact on the customer, because then I’m not exactly sure like what documents I’m sending them, I’m not exactly sure what’s next in the process. And so and then it has, it translates to maybe an overload on other team members, because I’m maybe I’m, like, unclear, and I’m asking them for or I’m like, believing them, like asking them for help, which then translates into them having less time with their customers, you know, so it kind of has this like cascade effect. And so the service blueprint that we, that we did for the coaching service really helped to identify all the phases along this entire experience from the moment the customer hears about us or potential customer hears about our service to like the part where they are initiated, and then on boarded, and then the whole engagement like service part itself, and then the follow up afterwards, like the feedback and evaluation, and then what we do with that feedback, and so it connects like what we’re doing as an employee with all the channel panels as well like, like, let’s say we’re using Google Docs, or let’s say we’re using a particular customer management system or CRM. So customer relationship management system. And all those things would be built into that blueprint to like, identify, these are the exact documents, these are the channels, this is the next step. And then this is how you interface with the customer. These are the back end support, touch points. So it kind of streamlines that whole experience that is very useful for for any, you know, any organization, any new hire that would potentially join, and just for, you know, posterity and clarity as well.

Marco Campana 10:37
Good thing, and I noticed that in in the work that you did there, you actually brought in at one point, an external person to help do some training, even though you were kind of like the resident expert in some ways. I wonder what why did you do that? And what does what does that help to create in the organization as you’re trying to kind of do the work as someone who’s new is a new approach a new kind of staff position?

Aletheia Delivre 10:58
Hmm, yeah, no, it’s, it’s a good point. So at some point we had. So this was in the early, I think it was like one or two months into when I joined alphaplus. And we had started working with a researcher from OCAD. So it was like a graduate school researcher, and she was doing work on service design, in organization. So basically, can surface design, impact or have an influence on organizational change. And that was like a very interesting interface for us to explore, because, because that was basically what I was trying to impulse at the organization. But it’s true that when you’re internal, sometimes, especially because I was new. So it wasn’t like, you know, I’d been there for 15 years. So it’s kind of like, it also, I think, provides support. And in some ways, I think legitimacy is too strong of a word, but in a way, like, you know, they don’t have they don’t yet trust, you know, like who you are as an internal person, or they don’t know, you know, yet that much. And so having, I guess the external person, even though they don’t know them, there’s not that like level of kind of that sensitive part of like that bias, where it’s like, okay, but this person is external. So whatever she provides, it’ll be more neutral, or, you know, so I think that was a great support at the beginning to kind of get buy in. For them the kind of built the foundation for other subsequent initiatives.

Marco Campana 12:27
It’s interesting, because I mean, I think a lot of organizations don’t have someone like you in in their organization to kind of drive it forward. So they’d get those two days, and then it’d be expected to kind of do the rest of it on the side of their desk kind of thing. So it gave you some momentum then, but the importance of having you embedded, I guess, in the organization, in some ways, I mean, you’re a staff person, but you’re also kind of moving them in, in potentially different directions. So you’re asking questions they might not have been considering recently, how important was it to have you as a resource? Or has it been? I guess, because, as you say, it’s still a work in progress. So how important has it been for you to be able to kind of continue being a presence continue learning but also providing input and providing ideas and, and providing I know that you think out loud a lot, and I love that in your Twitter feed, for example, you’re always thinking about how can I rethink this and revision, that kind of thing? What kind of an impact does that have as, as a resource in the organization where people can can have a colleague who is not just in the, in the in the trees or the weeds on a daily basis, but is also always looking at that sort of forest view?

Aletheia Delivre 13:28
I think that if you ask some of them, they might think it just depends on the, the, I guess, the design literacy, and like the stage at which people are able to appreciate the work of design, some, some of them might be like, you know, yeah, Lisa is just doing her design. And then I do sometimes I involve them in in ways that I think it’s really important to co design. And so this is the point of where I feel like it’s really important to have people who people who are doing service design, I think the ideal scenarios is when they’re embedded in an organization. So you have a lot of consulting firms out there who are doing some kind of like, you know, business service, customer experience design, and they’re able to provide recommendations, etc. But, but really the because and this is related to the point of the long term labor of service design and seeing the fruits oftentimes, like two years out or, you know, even more, it really requires someone who’s on the ground, like always, like listening, not just to not just doing like customer research, but also listening to the employees experience. And you can really have the best shot at that when you’re embedded in the like in the team itself. And then doing that work. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I think someone embedded but I think that it is very much something that we are I’m great. I’m very, I think very thankful that our director, our executive director, so Alan supports this kind of like exploration and parent Along with the services that we have to carry out to maintain our funding, but then, in parallel having this kind of strategic oversight or or rethinking kind of exploration of, I guess, at a high level, you know, what is the impact of the service that we’re having? And how can we design a better service more intentionally with service design and all these kind of principles and approaches?

Marco Campana 15:23
Yeah, no, I mean, it makes sense to me when you say that having the resources embedded Is it because again, if it’s a long term, like you said, you might not see the fruits of your labor for a year or two, but having someone there who is constant presence and, and building an almost, I guess, sort of modeling the approach of like learning and iterating and pivoting and changing as you’re learning and, you know, being able to work with that bird’s eye view, in some ways, could be really useful for for some, and I same time, I could see how it could be a little threatening, as well as like, well, constant change. I’m just trying to do my work here. And you’re laying in my face all the time. But at the same time, and we we started talking a little bit about this before, before I hit record, but when I look at service design principles in the way you’re talking about service design, I hear other approaches that I think are approaches that are common to some of the foundations of work that that that exists in the nonprofit sector. So I mentioned to you that when I started in the in the sector, you know, we were, we were really brought in under like the the Paolo Paolo frary kind of model of like popular education, community engagement, and you know, nothing for the client without the client involved kind of thing, which you hear, in some ways, I hear that in service design approaches, but not necessarily the service time design language. Like in our sector, there’s a big push now, for example, about refugee services that no services for us without so refugee led services, refugees must be involved from the very beginning of the creation by co design, as you’re, as you’re describing, even if it’s a mainstream organization, they shouldn’t be creating programs without refugees, right, they’re at the table from step one, designing along with some kind of thing. And then leading those programs and those kinds of things. So I’m curious if, if you hear that or you see those parallels between the language of service design or Human Centered Design, and some of these kind of older models that, that that lifers like me may have been brought up in, and people you may be working with, who have been involved in the sector for 2030 years, who maybe feel like they’ve kind of almost internalized these approaches in this language, but it may not always come out in the, in the expression of the way that they do their work.

Aletheia Delivre 17:28
Yeah, no, totally, I think working with I mean, being part of alpha plus that work. So it’s a nonprofit itself and, you know, receives funding from the the Government of Ontario, but then itself, like, has a mandate to support the almost 300 some organizations, the literacy organizations, nonprofits in, in Ontario as well, like getting to see what goes on in there in the inner workings and then meeting to support them as well, I think there’s definitely the exposure to seeing like, that a lot of the work they do, I’m like, you know, there’s so much potential for service design here. And, and some that sometimes they’re already doing part of it, but it’s like, I think the the thing with having a kind of, like, you know, with we were talking about the professionalization of service design, and people developing sort of like processes or frameworks or tools, like I think the thing that that is beneficial from that is that it structures things into like this, it kind of connects the dots, you know, and so I feel like these nonprofits, a lot of times they are working with dots, and they have like, amazing dots, like they’re really shiny dots are really like, you know, meaningful dots, but it’s like, then they’ll work on another dot, maybe at some point, but they don’t connect, you know, the two necessarily. And so I feel like the service design piece, or having that support, or perspective, to really look at how the dots Connect is like really, you know, really beneficial. And one example that I’m working with right now is a is a program that’s out in Hamilton, and literacy, network and Council, and they, they are just, they’ve just received funding, I think, last year to build a seniors program, so a seniors digital literacy program, and they, they their whole thing, so during these advisor meetings, their whole thing is like, we want to design this program for seniors, with seniors, so we want them to be involved with the feedback from the beginning, we want them to like let us know, you know, like, give us feedback on the tools and their experiences and how they might like to appropriate digital literacy and what are their objectives, those kinds of things. And to me, that is like, you know, a prime example of service design in application where you’re trying to design things with the like the members that you’re, I guess the target end user, so in this case, seniors but also involving the Advisory Council? And like figuring out what’s best for the staff? Like how can we get staffs to support this these initiatives? Like, what’s their schedule? Like? What is their digital literacy? levels? Like? So do they need training? Like, do we need to bring external people in like alphaplus, for example, and, you know, so thinking about that holistic experience. So I hope to be able to infuse some of that the service design principles or approaches to better support that, you know, that work, for example, with this, like literacy and seniors, seniors program in Hamilton.

Marco Campana 20:33
Yeah, I mean, that sounds like a really perfect example of where you could come in and help connect some of those dots, if you see that they’re missing. So in some ways, being external at this point, the organization but understanding them being part of your network, gives you that opportunity to kind of guide them even and sort of help them see what might be blind spots, if they don’t necessarily have that kind of holistic perspective around service design. Because I imagine it sounds like they’ve got a bunch of pieces built in already that you can kind of see, okay, and they may not be calling it a framework, but you will be able to come and sort of say, okay, in the framework, you got an eight out of 10. So I can bring in the other two pieces, and then help make sure you connect some of the dots is that some of the strengths that like service designed to bring? Yeah,

Aletheia Delivre 21:13
yeah, exactly. And yeah, I think you make a good point about the benefits of having someone because we’ve talked about having service designers embedded, and then the ones who are kind of external. And so, for example, in the case where I had just joined, and there was that OCAD researcher who was an external person that was super beneficial to kind of take things off the ground. And then to have someone embedded and kind of like, you know, taking carrying on or building on that work is like something that’s really good, I think, for the long term. And so in this scenario, it’s kind of like the flipped scenario, I’m the external person, but but bringing in that approach, and then hoping that and then working with them, hoping that the approach will take and that they will be able to experience the long term benefits of integrating that into their initiative, but also any other organizational projects that they may have. Because they think, for example, this initiative, it might run for a couple of years. So it’s, it’s like finite in time. But I feel like once people have understood, like a different way of looking at things like for example, that framework that you’re alluding to, like, you know, having an approach that helps them I think organize the dots, and then, like more familiar with the ways or the tools or different perspectives to how to connect them, I think that is something that they would be able to carry forward in any other, you know, organizational project that they they tackle beyond the seniors digital literacy program.

Marco Campana 22:40
Yeah, I mean, I like exploring this idea, because now in this case, you’re coming in as the external, and you’re trying to leave something as some knowledge transfer with them behind it, like, okay, here’s services on you’re already almost there. And then the question is, how can you apply this to other all of your work, and who’s going to be responsible for that. So in this case, they don’t have a lithia coming in and staying, they have her kind of as a guide, as a person who can help bring them up to speed kind of thing. So I guess that’ll be the case for a lot of organizations where they wouldn’t get the resources or funding to have a service design person, but it could become part of somebody’s job, too. And hopefully, they see the value of doing it. So I’m curious what you think. For the non professional service designer, what are some of the skills, the attitudes, the beliefs that let’s say someone who, you know, we talked about the accidental techie at an organization, and it’s just the person who happens to have those skills and start leading an organization through with the benefits sometimes of an external, either consultant or network or something like that. So I see, this is a parallel kind of thing. So you have the accidental service designer, the person who’s clearly already there, who’s helping them figure this out, you’re going to give them some additional support and skills by just being present? What, but but maybe they want to take it further beyond the one project, as we mentioned, so what what do they need to be building into their own skill sets? What needs to happen even within the structure of the organization to allow that to kind of happen to move forward and be better at creating services for their clients and communities? Big question, so we can get out. But I’m excited to talk about the notion of like, what can you bring something in? And then there’s like, Okay, how can how can I, let’s say I’m that person? How can I What do I need to know that I don’t know, to move this forward to move my own professional skills forward to bring this into my work and to influence the organization?

Aletheia Delivre 24:27
Yeah, I mean, this is a great I think this really touches on the, like the whole actually the ethos of service design, like many times when you’ll speak with service designers or even service design consulting firms, like there’s an ethos there that is actually that we’re not so it is not the typical kind of like consulting situation where they kind of parachute in and they want to kind of take over or like provide record. I mean, I say this because I’ve put, I’ve worked in consulting firms, so I’m not like, you know, trying to be biased here. But it’s like literally, you know, you have a project you have a limited timeline and Most of the times, it’s like it is very profit driven, you know, kind of situation so, but that I find with the ethos of like service design, consulting firms and even service designers as a whole is like they want to, it’s almost like there’s a real, like serious threat about democratizing design. And so empowering people who are non like, you know, like, these non professional quote, unquote, like, designer with a capital D, you know, to be able to, like, carry out service design in their organization. So this is really like the heart I think of, of what like, you know, the, the haze on that or like these people. And so and then what we do and the work and so I think, like the fact of being able to work with someone in a nonprofits provide that support. I mean, I just wish there were like, more, there were more resources in the I wish, like the government provided more support for these nonprofits to receive the support, even if it’s just like initial, like, you know, like something like this where, you know, you walk them through different things that they can try or practice or start embedding today into their work, and then have them you know, like, you could have checkpoints like for I think one benefit with an organization like alphaplus, is that, because we work with these organizations, like on a, I mean, we ourselves are nonprofit, so then we work with them on a year long engagement that can be renewed. So in a way, like you could have quite a long extra relationship with these organizations. And so it’s kind of the perfect kind of, right, you know, situation where you could start integrating like service design, because you have that kind of hand hand holding, or mentorship or support in a kind of long term way. But that not all nonprofits have access to that kind of, you know, long term support. And so, I think that I think like having this kind of initial exposure, I don’t know, like through, you know, through where this is why I hope like service design will really explode or take off or get more visibility, and especially in the nonprofit world where I think it just stands to benefit, like so much from service design. And and have that implemented in a long term way, even if it’s just like small things and growing. I think that would be Yeah, I think that there’s so much potential there. So

Marco Campana 27:20
yeah, no, I mean, I totally agree. And it sounds like one of the things resources is always an issue. But it’s also the pitch to the to the funder. And having funders understand the value of this. I mean, we our sector, for example, has for a long time been mired in and outputs versus outcomes kind of service delivery model. And probably for I mean, forever, but formally for the last decade, I would say, and definitely since the last sort of huge national call for proposals, the funder, the funder itself, the main funder, the Federal funders, talking about outcomes, right, and clients interested in its using the right language and things like that. So that you have to show that you’re going to be able to do those kinds of things. But, but we’re still curious about where their their funding support for that will exist, because you need resources. And you need, we talked a lot about baseline competencies, and some of the organizations and it sounds like service design is it needs to be one of those, someone needs to have the formal time, resources and permission, if you will, but also the mandate within an organization in order to, to actually do design. And, and so I know that you’re also doing some work with the Canadian government as a design manager. And so I’ve seen more and more infrastructure being built up in particular, I guess, at all levels of government, but I’ve seen like, our big funders, ircc, immigration, refugee citizenship, Canada, and I sort of accidentally discovered that they had an innovation lab with about 65 people in it, right, like anthropologists, journalists, you know, web developers, you name it. And I was like, Okay, this is matching kind of private sector models of innovation labs. But there’s, there’s been no sort of osmosis over to the funding side of, you know, we want you to innovate, but we’re not going to fund any kind of similar sort of infrastructure. So I’m curious what you’re starting to see within within government within the body that could fund some of those resources, but also needs to have sort of an appreciation for service design, like what what are you seeing within their within that environment around understanding the the power and potential of service design, in funding, not just in their own service delivery?

Aletheia Delivre 29:26
Yeah, I mean, I wish I was at my pay grade to actually decide about this, I think things would be a bit different. But, um, but for sure, I mean, being working now with in parallel Effie, kind of in a government environment where there is more there, there are more resources to to have, you know, service design teams, but also the stakes, you know, because it’s it’s like, you know, anyways, I think the the fact of having such a complex user base where you you’re basically responsible for every single citizen An entire country, but also every single resident, and every single person who might be a family member of a person in Canada, or in that country, and also anybody who wants to migrate to Canada or everybody who is clean, like who is asking for, for asylum? How do you say this in English? I’m thinking, ask seeking asylum. Is that the same thing in English? Okay, so, so yeah, so these kinds of situations where it’s a quite a large, you know, Target, target base, and, and the, the needs are very varied, you know, whereas, in a nonprofit could be, like, specialized on helping, you know, like, for the women’s shelter, it could be like helping, you know, specific, a particular demographic and same for indigenous, same for deafblind, etc, etc. And so I think there’s this realization, okay, like, we better start looking at our services, because the stakes are too high to like, screw up, basically. But then, you know, in terms of, I feel like, it’s like, it doesn’t, at least, like from my experience working at a nonprofit as well, it doesn’t translate into, okay, but the people that were asking, so this kind of third sector, which is that nonprofits, many times, they’re actually plugging in gaps that the government themselves are not able to, like cover in their service model, you know, so these people, these organizations are often actually doing the government a tremendous service by existing and carrying out their work. But at the same time, I think there’s not the trickling over yet into the realization of that, well, then these people also need to be supported in the same way to deliver their services in a, in a, in a holistic, meaningful way, and taking care of the training of their employees, the development of their employee, like professional development, the well being of their employees, because all of that also translates into the service outcomes for the end, you know, the target users. So yeah, I don’t know if that I kind of like,

Marco Campana 31:58
went around about Okay, it’s a meandering question to begin with. But you said something in there that I want to I want to touch on, because I think it’s really important, and in some ways, for me almost sort of provides the pitch to both aid organizations as well as funders. And, and, and it, it’s interesting, because you said something along the lines of basically we have we better get this right, because there’s too much at stake, we get it wrong. And so often, and and to do that requires creating some change, you might talk about creating some efficiencies, more effective services. And for some people, that’s a bit of a threat, because again, there’s the line, well, we’ve always done it this way. And we’re already super busy, right? Like we’ve got waiting lists, and we’ve got, you know, too many clients that we can’t even serve and things like that. And so I but at the same time is can service design help? I guess get past that, that blockage? I’m sorry, I’m thinking out loud. So I’m not really formulating the question. Well, but but if the pitches, you know, we need to take the time and have the resources to do service design, because the outcomes will be better for clients, and there’ll be less risk of getting it wrong. Versus it’s already Okay, the way we’re doing it, not everybody’s happy. And to switch would be too hard kind of thing. is, I wonder if that’s part of the resistance to bringing in a service design approach, because it will create change, it will ask questions about is this actually effective? Should we even be providing this service anymore? Or should we be doing it entirely differently or creating a different kind of service? So I guess part of the question is, how do you help people make that shift? By asking the right question, in some ways and working through what is kind of, I guess, just the way we do things over time.

Aletheia Delivre 33:43
Right. So it is an interesting follow up to the previous so you know, the previous point was, okay, you know, there’s I think there’s not enough resources in this nonprofit thing. The nonprofit is always on Hill always under understaffed, under resourced, you know. And so in some sense, it’s like, Okay, well, we wish the funding could trickle over this realization, the recognition that there needs to be this kind of design practice or design literacy, and therefore the support and resources. And then on the flip side, so the second thing is that, well, are the nonprofits ready to absorb, you know, a service design practice, which would imply change management or organizational development or change, you know, this kind of thing. And so, that’s a very important point that I think should is also worthwhile to mention, and it is a big, you know, a big, I would say, today in my, you know, experience of maybe, you know, there’s other people out there who have amazing success stories, but I think that the, the narrative that I’ve heard is very much the thing well, you know, we are we’re getting by like our, our solutions are scrappy, and we do like just in time solutions, and, you know, we were able to like it was a big Challenge, but we were able to pivot through COVID. And like being able to support like these learners in this kind of way, through remote sessions. But but then it’s like, but how many learners? For example, did you lose? Like what percentage? You know? And? And how do your employees feel about transitioning now to these employees in, in my particular sector, at least for literacy, we’re very, very comfortable doing in person teaching, a lot of them are, were did not sign up for this profession to teach, like through zoom, and online and figuring out how to how to handle that. And so it’s like, well, you know, and if they’re uncomfortable with the technology themselves, then you can imagine how that translates into if they’re trying to teach the learner there’s obviously, like, a, an impact on the learner experience, you know, and so, like, I think it’s like, we’re, it’s exactly that it’s like, okay, we we’ve somehow made it work, and were able to maintain, you know, in a way, like, I guess, the services, and they did do incredible things like, you know, pivot like, I don’t want to be little like what they did. It’s just that like, if there was this appetite, or kind of not, I think like the the visibility or the awareness of what service design could do to make that approach or that pivot, even more intentional and make much more sense, even not just as like a band aid solution, but something that could be like an overarching strategy for their organization. Now, for example, if they want to maintain a hybrid work, you know, we’re thinking about the future of work or thinking about the future of learning for these literacy. Participants, it’s like that reflection requires a much more I think, strategic consideration. And so would benefit from these kinds of principles, or these kinds of frameworks or tools that are embedded in the service design practice, you know, so

Marco Campana 37:00
that’s really, you got me thinking about, like, I guess, if they’re, if all of the agencies had already built service design, practice and, and frameworks into their work, what that pivot could have how that pivot could have looked differently during COVID. And also, as we come out of it kind of thing. And I’m curious if, if you’ve seen organizations that had any element of service design in place before and how they’ve reacted differently, perhaps to COVID, then those who were just being scrappy, for example, they did have to do give them an opportunity to really kind of not just pivot, but learn and change and iterate or even innovate along the way, because they had a process in place that said, we’re always looking at what the right service might be, or the right experience. And so they may, might have been able to actually even take advantage of what happened and a not just serve clients, but also figure out how to serve the ones that they might have lost in the process.

Aletheia Delivre 37:52
Yeah, I, I wish I could say that I’ve come across a few. But I, I think like, it’s very, like hard for me Actually, really to think of anybody who has been doing that there’s maybe like, I think many organizations have definitely tried to implement something where, for example, they would maybe try to collect feedback from some like from the learners, and they’ve been trying to adapt their, their outreach to meet, like to try to meet them where they’re at. And so that is definitely something that is, I think, that is part of you no thinking about the whole service experience. But from like, what I’ve heard, it’s been very difficult to reach out to the learners that they’ve lost, it’s like, just like, you know, they don’t have access to devices, connected internet connectivity, especially in rural areas, and Canada or Ontario, not very strong. So it’s like, don’t have devices don’t have connectivity, like financial situation may not allow them to have like this data plan or access, you know, to connectivity. So then it’s like, Okay, well, we just hope that they come back, you know, when COVID is over, and things aren’t, we’re able to meet in person again, you know, so I think like, that’s a prime opportunity, for example to like, I don’t have the answers on the spot, we would have to, like, you know, do the actual work to look at service design and how it integrates and all these different channels and, and creative solutions, but I feel like that is a prime problem space to look at where it’s like, well, how could we were How could we have shaved off at least part of that percentage of the learners that were lost, even if it was just, you know, like, half of them like 50% of them, we could have still found a way to bridge them into you know, a program and then coordinate like it could have been I don’t know, I’m just think of any they could have been like a tech like refurbishing program and then like thinking about how we’re going to get those devices to that to that particular you know, learner out there. And then like maybe there’s some partnerships involved. Like we need to partner with or maybe some funding requests or something, but it’s like, I think it’s really a concerted effort to really think about how we can plug those those gaps in and and unless there’s the resources and the reflection, like the intentional consideration for that, and it’s just Well, you know, we resigned ourselves to like, this is really unfortunate situation, we try our best with what we have. But I think that the service design could really kick it up a notch by by by optimizing the resources and the reflection that may be available and that they’re not availing themselves of.

Marco Campana 40:32
Yeah, no, I think that’s a really kind of fun, in some ways, thought exercise to think about if if an agency had been already doing service design, what how could they have reacted differently? How would they have been equipped to have reacted differently? And you’ve alluded to a couple of things there, like the reflection, and the thinking outside of the box, and things like that, and sort of not not being as reactive, but saying, okay, something’s changing, but we’re always changing, because we’re always trying to meet the needs of clients. So this is just another example of that. And so it’s almost like less of a freakout and more of Okay, we’ll roll with this, because that’s how we roll basically. So. Yeah, I mean, it’s an interesting kind of just high level thinking for me to think about, like, what could that have meant, I have the same reflections in our sector on technology, because we’ve had this conversation with our Thunder for decades. And if we had gotten the conversation sort of moved ahead, further, two years ago, let’s say, it would have been a very different experience during COVID. In particular, as you describe around the digital divide, and digital equity issues and things like that we’ve been would have been much more prepared for some of those things, as well as the staffing, skill sets and those types of things. So it’s like, if you’re always thinking about the what ifs and what’s possible, and paying attention to where your clients are at the newer, you’re kind of already thinking ahead a few more steps in some way. Yeah. And a shock isn’t as big a shock, necessarily, because you’re just like, Okay, we’ve got frameworks and processes in place to literally deal with this right now.

Aletheia Delivre 41:49
Right, exactly. There’s, um, one one of the programs I’m working with is, is literacy, Ontario central Sawzall locks, and they are. And I think it they, they were interviewed. So their executive director was interviewed by nonprofits Ontario, I don’t know the exact name, but there were, it’s like a network. And they have this Pope published this blog, and she talked about organizational resilience. And I thought that was very interesting in light of, I mean, all the kind of programs in our sector, I feel like, and I think that if I were, I guess, to think of one example of like, someone who might be thinking at that level, but maybe not, doesn’t have the resources to carry out or to execute, it would be, you know, locks, for example, and, and thinking about, like, what does it take for an organization to be resilient through the this kind of change, like what we’ve seen in the pandemic, and all the challenges that, that it’s imposed, or implied, you know, and I think to your point that of like, rolling with the punches, I feel like that’s kind of the specialty of when you think about when I think about all the ones that we’re working with in the nonprofit sector in Ontario, there are so like, I just want to emphasize again, I don’t want it to sound like I’ve been like, you know, Pooh poohing what they think it’s like, it’s actually the contrary where they’ve been doing, like, they’re so skilled at like, adapting to different changes because of funding requests, like, okay, now this criteria, like is asking you to do like, X amount, or x y Zed, and so they would shift their services or shift the way that they model things to meet those requests. And so when this kind of change comes, they’re like, almost like, Okay, another change, right? Well, like adapt. But then it’s true that like, having this kind of overarching strategy about being intentional with like, how can, like, are we thinking about the future of work at this organization? Are we thinking about how organizations can almost have this, like, emergency planning in place, so that it’s not like, you know, we’ll just catch kind of what we can from like a like, I don’t know, like thinking about a filter example, you can kind of like, catch sort of what you what you can with a sieve or with you know, the the filter, but if you have a kind of more intentional reflection, those that save like, the filter might be finer, so you might be able to catch like, more, like retain more of your customers or preserve more of your services or be better equipped to evolve, like, you know, because of that kind of planning or reflection that took place kind of, you know, in advance

Marco Campana 44:18
so, yeah, no, I mean, I what I hear from you is definitely not Pooh poohing. I think you’re, you’re describing what I see in our sector as well as that. Organizations have always done more with less they’ve been resilient, they’ve been they’ve been creative. they’ve they’ve had efficiencies and effectiveness, but then it’s, but we can still think about the idea about well, what if they were intentional about change management? What if they were intentional about some of this design stuff? What more could they do? And so it’s not it’s not trying to layer something more on them or assigning any blame. It’s more like, if you had different resources, if you had, you know, a service design approach, a framework that was that was resourced and supported. Imagine what else could have happened kind of, so it’s really kind of thinking about you did amazing work. And you know, your clients were supported. But if we had gotten this stuff in place before, what could happen? So why not look ahead and say, Well, what if we get this stuff in place ahead of time? For the next kind of moment when we need to be resilient? Yeah, what could that look like? And I think that’s, that’s a useful thing to be thinking about. Because I think anything that can help be, make us intentional about change, and be able to react to it better, because that’s all we’re going to be seeing over the next decades for sure, when it comes to some of this stuff. So so something you mentioned a little while ago, I think, for me relates to this is the below the iceberg of everything, because you talked about Okay, so service design, but then there’s change management and operational change and skill development and things like that. And I wonder if that’s some of what kind of makes people stop in their tracks. It’s like, okay, we can talk about service design. But we don’t have that the rest of the below, there’s all this stuff that has to happen below the iceberg. And, you know, we either don’t feel like we have the skills, or we don’t have the time to do that kind of change management to do that skills development and other pieces. What does it look like below the surface of sort of, of service design, that that does require sort of making changes or shifts, whether it’s actually like, organizational or attitudinal and things like that, that you see, during a service design kind of process?

Aletheia Delivre 46:16
Well, there’s Honestly, it is a, I feel like there’s no easy shortcut to, to that, because it does anytime you kind of touch the eyeball of an organization. So the way that it works, or the you know, the kind of executive direction, it kind of it does, you know, does like ruffle something, you know, and I think it’s almost like if you, if you’re not ruffling anything, I wonder if you’re actually making change, you know, like, moving some, some the needle and so there is kind of that aspect, but it can be, I think, it can be done in a way that’s there are different ways to carry it out. And one is like, you know, the extreme would be to like it, which is not what I’d recommend is to, like, you know, come in, and then kind of, like, dictate, like, this is how you should like, Hey, this is what we need to do. And then like, this is what I believe now and, and we need to go this x direction, it’s more like, I think it’s really a, it’s almost like I think people who are embedded in non professional, non quote unquote, professional designers, and kind of in these nonprofit situations with lower resources. It almost like you have to be like a, like a, a soldier, like a, you’re like a champion or embedded in your organization. And you might see a little more in terms of like, of the service design piece, then other colleagues at the time. And, and then sometimes you I think you might lose people by using jargon by being like, okay, like, they might not know what, like a service blueprint, or like a customer experience, journey map is or like, what the, like Double Diamond is, or whatever, you know, and so it’s finding ways I think, to do like to do the work. So just like almost like, don’t always ask for permission, like Unless, of course, it’s like, going to jeopardize, like, some kind of, you know, legal or policy or some kind of structural aspect of the organization, like, don’t do anything illegal, but like, but sometimes I think that was good advice. But like, sometimes these experiments like can be in a way like permissionless, you can, like, nobody’s going to be like, Oh, don’t think about like making the service better for our customers don’t think about optimizing what that experience looks like, you know, I mean, hopefully, nobody, nobody would. But I think like there’s a place where you can start small and, and use something that can, that is relatable to the team. So like if the team is like if there’s a core service, or if there’s like an experience that is kind of shared, or that is that is known to be, you know, quite important or significant to the organization, you can look at ways of like improving that thing. And then showing like, showing the work, you know, involving people in the process, and I think that’s where co design is important. Because when you involve people who may not be familiar with design or what have you, but you tear down the barriers to your, you’re telling them okay, you can do design to I’m, I’m also just experimenting, and I want to bring you into the work. And so let’s do this together, right. And so that’s also kind of like the the buy in piece, which is so essential in the end to finally kind of move the move the mountain.

Marco Campana 49:32
No, it’s great. I mean, I hear a bunch of threads that kind of go back to sort of what you were talking about, about the division of the ethos of service design, which is basically you’re going to be in this for the long haul. So you’re you’re you’re making changes that you might not see the fruits of for some time. You’re being intentional about that change, which is I think where that sort of below the iceberg stuff happens. You need the organization to be intentional, like you described it alphaplus with Alan being intentional as leadership’s we’re going to go down this path, right, we’re going to we’re going to do this together. And the other thing That I really thought was important as like, as we’re talking about the the end user experience, you’re constantly keeping in mind the service providers as well and their experience. So those threads, I mean, I think you’ve kind of put it all into a really nice nutshell about what the approach is, and why it’s beneficial. And I think that’s a really nice way to kind of tie it together. And I also want to be mindful of your time. So I want to ask one last question, which is, is there anything I mean, this has been I find this, I found this really, really interesting, and I’m getting more enthusiastic to read some more of the stuff that you share. And some of your writings, for example, I think this is really beneficial for folks in our sector to think about. And for funders, as well, to be aware of what you know, what is what is intentional mean, for them, not just for the organization, when you’re looking at service design and outcomes and clients interested in things like that? Is there anything about human centered design, or the service design experience that I haven’t asked you about that you think people should know, before we kind of tie it up?

Aletheia Delivre 50:54
I think there’s one thing that I that I’ve been thinking of as we’re talking about connecting the way of design in a way design is a conduit, right? It’s not like the end in me, it’s an in and of itself. It’s, it’s a conduit, or like a set of either processes or tools or frameworks or it’s like the means through which we hope to, to create change in at least, you know, the way that I’d like to think about design, you know, and I think we are, we’re thinking about it in our sectors, like really the social impact of of design. And so, when we talk about like the, we’ve talked kind of about the customer, the end experience, and as you mentioned, like the experience of the stakeholders, and the service providers, and those kinds of things, and I think that especially in the nonprofit sector, I keep I like I always hear about, like, okay, there’s, obviously there’s like the, the issues related to being understaffed or under resourced. And then there’s also broader, like, usually people who are in the sector are also in it for because they have a conviction about a particular field. So whether that’s digital literacy, whether that’s like homelessness, whether that’s the immigration piece, or refugee piece. And so there’s an there’s a connection between the work that they’re doing, and the change that they hope to see at the higher level in terms of public the policies, fears and kind of that ivory tower that, you know, that they they imagine. And I feel like when we talk about, we talked a little bit about the disconnect between like the the funder, like the federal funding and realizing Okay, we need service design, but then that realization not trickling over to the support for the ones being funded, in some sense. And I think like, a bridge almost like, to me, I mean, this is a vision that I see that I don’t know if it’ll ever be implemented. But I feel like the currency of communication between those two is doing the design piece. Because in if like, let’s say in a nonprofits were to start like, you know, doing some kind of intentional thinking or strategic thinking around, okay, like our services like, this is the blueprint, this is the objective or the outcomes we hope to meet. And we’re really like speaking with our stakeholders, with our with mapping things out or like doing, you know, journeys and, and some of it is visuals, some of it is like really related to the holistic reflection around. But I feel like that whole train is really something that gets you a seat at the table, when you are advocating or when you are talking about making, you know, improving your services and why you need more funding, like you can demonstrate it through these visuals or through the research that you’ve done. The user base research or these kind of experience maps, you can clearly identify the pain points in that experience map where you’re asking for, you know, more support or for funding. And so I feel like and yeah, just kind of like wrap it up. There’s these, there’s the practice of you know, service sign and, and the importance of it in terms of improving the services, and the overall experience. But there’s also like, let’s not forget that service design is a powerful tool that gives that has the potential to give people a seat around the table when we’re actually asking for change to be made, you know, at these kind of higher, higher levels.

Marco Campana 54:16
Right, thank you so much. Now, I think that’s a great note to end on. In particular for our sector, when it comes to inclusion, and diversity. That’s a really important message, the seat at the table, the CO design, the being included, is always it’s always important and useful to come back to that. So thank you for taking the time, I find this a really useful kind of foundational conversation for me, and also aspirational around service design and what’s possible, and what we could be thinking about so and you really brought in for me, again, a different aspect about not just focusing on the end user or the customer, the client, but also making sure those stakeholders those service providers are taken into account. And I think that will really resonate with people. I don’t think they hear that enough that they’re part of this process. They’re not just being handed on as well. So thank you for bringing that that that aspect to it as well. And thanks for taking the time today.

Aletheia Delivre 55:01
Thank you so much for having me in all of your insightful questions and I really had a really like, it’s great you discover things as you’re speaking as you’re articulating them, so it’s Yeah, thank you very much, Marco.

Marco Campana 55:13
Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you and your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts are also on my site@markopolos.org I appreciate you listening and if you have any tips, suggestions, ideas or want to be interviewed or know someone who wants to be interviewed, please drop me a line through my website, or marco@marcopolis.org Thanks again.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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