Chris Vanstone, our Director of Co-design, recently wrote an article in Public Innovation Today about the benefit of co-design for policy and how it can be used to reduce risk.
Michael is 21. He spent most of his life in care; recently released after a stint in prison. He knows where he wants to get to, but doesn’t have a job or much sense of a positive future. He’s currently on home detention.
We met Michael through a project with the ‘Access to Justice Taskforce’ led by the federal Attorney-General’s Department. The project aims to improve life for young people transitioning from care and custody. As part of the project, a group of experts from NGOs, government and academia spent two days developing new ideas for services, to better support people like Michael to live a life closer to the one they wanted – better for him, less expensive for government. The big idea was a new model of care that would support Michael’s loved ones to better support him.
The following week we tested this idea with Michael. He thought it was a great idea – ‘for someone else’. He didn’t have loved ones he’d trust enough. The story was similar for the five others we tested it with. ‘Nice idea – wouldn’t work for me.’ Failure or success – depending on how you look at it?
The dangerous lure of ideas
As people, we’re overly and dangerously attracted to ‘the solution’. Let’s be honest, it feels really great in that meeting to name your solution to a new problem or opportunity. ‘We need to support loved ones’, ‘we need better co-ordinated services’, ‘we need a one-stop shop’, ‘we need an app’, ‘we need something concrete the minister can announce in April.’ The norms of the workplace, and government in particular, encourage jumping to the solution.
But in guessing at what will work – and guesses are all they are, no matter how well informed – we’re more often wrong than right.
TACSI uses co-design to test out those guesses and assumptions before rolling out an expensive program. It helps policymakers understand their end users, identify the root problem that needs to be solved, and reduce risk and unnecessary cost.