public sector

Becoming Digitally Resilient: Understanding the Gap between Online Government Services and Low Ability Users

Presentation slide: Photograph of a person at a desk with a lap top and computer mouse and a smartphone. They are writing in a small spiralbound notebook.
YONI LEFEVRE STBY bv DOROTA GAZY STBY bv In the Netherlands, approximately 2.5M people struggle to use technology in their daily life and are unable to use online governmental services independently. People with low digital literacy are increasingly feeling left behind by the digitalisation of society. Even though this group is very diverse, what they have in common is getting stuck at some point when they are in a digital environment, e.g. when filling in digital forms. The Dutch government wants to provide more effective and appropriate help by designing more accessible online services and offering different types of support. To support this, STBY was commissioned to do qualitative research to better understand the experiences of people with limited digital skills. The ethnographic methods used in the project enabled the researchers to get a holistic understanding of participants’ experiences of going through this emotional and difficult journey. This personal approach enabled participants to share the ‘obstacles’...

How a Government Organisation Evolved to Embrace Ethnographic Methods for Service (and Team) Resilience: The Case of the Canadian Digital Service

Presentation slide: photograph of a diverse group of people waiting outside a building with a "Service Canada sign", most are wearing masks.
MITHULA NAIK Canadian Digital Service, Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada COLIN MACARTHUR Universita’ Bocconi Government websites and online services are often built with limited input from the people they serve. This approach limits their ability to respond to ever changing needs and contexts. This case study describes a government digital team built from the ground up to embrace ethnographic methods to make government services more resilient. The case study begins by tracing the organisation’s origins and relationship to other research-driven parts of its government. Then it shows how the organisation’s structure evolved as more projects included ethnography. It describes various approaches to locating skilled researchers within bureaucratic confines, as well as what responsibilities researchers took on as the organisation grew. It then summarises researchers’ experiences with matrixed, functional and hybrid organisation schemes. The case study concludes explaining how embracing ethnographic approaches...

Designing and Envisioning a More Resilient Social System: How to Start from What’s Good to Create Something Better in Public Services

Presentation slide: diagram called "Service Concepts: Forecast & ideate". It looks like a colorful flow chart but it is too small to read.
SOFIA CARVALHO With Company Segurança Social (Portugal’s Social Security System) offers multiple service channels to the people. However, they were not perceived as a whole because the assistance was not standard, depending on the channel or person answering – leading to cumulative problems that could take months to resolve. We faced the complex nature of a big governmental organization. Our research made us more aware of people’s general reluctance towards public institutions as they tend to expect poor quality service. We used the information from field research to create four prototypes that would bring tangible results to citizens and impact the institution’s culture in the long term. Segurança Social has always been about resilience: the organization itself and the people it serves. Despite its flaws and fragilities, it’s the social system that allows many to thrive. That’s why we envisioned the system’s sustainability, rooted in the workers’ resilience and processes. Keywords: Public Services, Digital...

Amplifying Resilient Communities: Identifying Resilient Community Practices to Better Inform Health System Design

Diagram called "Strands of Health." Six strands of different colors are wound together, then unravel. The strands are labled: Environmental Health; Social Health; Physical Health; Emotional Health; Financial Health; Spiritual Health
ROMIT RAJ Quicksand Design Studio BABITHA GEORGE Quicksand Design Studio CRISTIN MARONA Matchboxology REBECCA WEST Ipsos ANABEL GOMEZ Independent Technical Advisor TRACY PILAR JOHNSON The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ADITYA PRAKASH Quicksand Design Studio SUNNY SHARMA Ipsos AYUSHI BIYANI Quicksand Design Studio MRITTIKA BARUA James P Grant School of Public health, BRAC University CAL BRUNS Matchboxology Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an inflection point, bringing heightened awareness around the preparedness and resilience of public health systems in dealing with severe shocks. While the pandemic has accentuated the existing weakness in public health systems, for many, especially those belonging to marginalized sections of society, seeking healthcare has always been fraught with severe challenges and frictions. This paper presents the findings from a two-year design research project conducted in South Africa and Bangladesh, which studied the challenges faced by health seekers, especially those...

Redesigning the Social Safety Net

Redesigning the Social Safety Net
Moderator: NADINE LEVIN, City of San Francisco Panelists: MORGAN G. AMES, University of California, Berkeley; , Monumental; MITHULA NAIK, Canadian Digital Service The past two years have laid bare that we inhabit a world with enormous and increasing inequality. We've also seen a decreasing level of faith in public programs and institutions to provide quality health care and education or even fair access elections. And the very systems designed for the betterment of all are often siloed and ineffective. This session comes at a time when policy and regulations affecting social safety net benefits are more in flux than usual in many countries. Using the tools of data, design, activism, technology, and innovation, these panelists have led an ethnography-forward approach to reimagining these systems and move toward safety nets that work for all. Panelists Nadine Levin, PhD, is an anthropologist, Rhodes Scholar, and UX researcher who focuses on improving equitable access to technology. After several years of academic research...

Reconnecting with the Public: Participatory Research and Co-creations within and outside a Public Institution

LOK YI LEE Brandnographer XINYI JIANG Brandnographer Despite constraints on face-to-face meetings and social distancing policies under COVID-19, with the help of online tools, Brandnographer successfully conducted a series of online activities to facilitate stakeholders from different age and background to immerse themselves in situated scenarios, then to design and visualize their ideal public services in the future. This paper discusses how a participatory approach and design thinking framework have helped the researchers and decision makers collect thick data from the service users, transform user insights into prototypes for reiteration and concrete design principles. On the other hand, how the blurred identities in between observers, participants and designers have stimulated discussions and design possibilities by supplying real-life scenarios and evaluation on solution feasibility. Article citation: 2021 EPIC Proceedings pp 43–57, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...

Futures in Things: Locating the Promise of Infrastructures in Public Libraries

SANDJAR KOZUBEV Georgia Institute of Technology CARL DISALVO Georgia Institute of Technology Public libraries in the U.S. and around the world are rapidly changing due expanding technological and social needs of their communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the debates about the future of public spaces and public services. In this paper, we report on a qualitative study of librarians in a U.S. urban public library system. The focus of the study was to understand how the concept of “the future of library” is constructed and contested both socially and materially. Using mixed methods, including participant observation, interviews, participatory design and action research, we developed insights about the socio-political dynamics of futures in a public infrastructure. We argue that futures can be shaped not only by socio-technical imaginaries, and representations, which tend to be abstract and distant, but also by socio-material conditions in the present. Specifically, drawing on the work of infrastructure studies,...

Anticipating the Unanticipated: Ethnography and Crisis Response in the Public Sector

CHRISTINA CHEADLE Stripe Partners HANNAH PATTINSON Surrey County Council This case study emphasizes the importance of ethnographic research in the public sector, specifically regarding emergency preparedness and crisis-response. In the summer of 2020, Surrey County Council in England commissioned a mixed-method Community Impact Assessment to better assist and serve their residents during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stripe Partners conducted the place-based ethnographic work, helping discover insights that led directly to strategy change. The ethnographic and quantitative research went hand-in-hand and led to rich and meaningful insights that were able to confidently convince decision makers to create change. Our ethnographic work validated many of the quantitative findings, while simultaneously providing the depth that allowed them to accurately and most usefully allocate resources for change. We researched how local communities had been affected by Covid, conducting on-the-ground interviews in seven different towns in the region....

How Ethnographic Methods Make APIs More Usable

abstract design
by LIBBY KAUFER and MARIA VIDART-DELGADO, Ad Hoc LLC Ethnographic methods that center systems-thinking, how knowledge is constructed, and how knowledge is shared among communities are the best approach for developing collective digital products like APIs. Application Programming Interfaces, commonly known as APIs, connect the front-end interfaces we see when we navigate the internet (like websites and apps) to the back-end systems, or databases, that store information. APIs enable people to carry out transactions online, like purchasing goods, booking flights, or applying for government benefits. While they are invisible to end-users, APIs are crucially important to developers and to the way many websites, programs, and applications function. Like codebases and databases, APIs are objects consumed collectively and collaboratively by teams of developers who work together to integrate front-end to back-end systems, run tests, and monitor and troubleshoot integration issues. In the context of APIs, typical UX research methods...

Change Agent: Lessons on Power and Failure from Eight Years of Systems Research & Policy Design

CHELSEA MAULDIN Executive Director, Public Policy Lab PechaKucha Presentation Drawing on nearly a decade of research and design engagements with U.S. federal and municipal governments, I'll describe a gap between intended outcomes of government policies and the lived experience of people affected by those policies. I'll discuss how that gap arises from variances in the decision-making agency of policymakers and members of the public. Next, I'll discuss how human-centered researchers and designers attempt to equalize government/public agency though interventions in the policy decision-making cycle. Then I'll suggest criticisms and shortfalls of current human-centered approaches to improving policy and service-delivery systems, including researchers and designers’ tendencies to amplify complexity, to extract value from the public, and to accept status quo inequality. Finally I'll propose that, when using research and design as tools for positive policy and systems change and increased agency for marginalized peoples,...

Designing for Dynamics of Agency in NYC Homeless Shelters

NATALIA RADYWYL The Public Policy Lab; The School for Visual Arts Public sector innovation (PSI) is an emerging multidisciplinary field that is attracting practitioners from a wide range of sectors and industries, with a correspondingly broad set of skills and experience. PSI aims to significantly improve the services that a government has the responsibility to provide by taking a user-centered, partnership-based approach, from service content development through to methods of service provision (OECD 2012). Yet the work is complex and not without risk, if undertaken without appropriate foresight, thoughtfulness, and rigor. In particular, when it comes to pursuing PSI in the design of social service policy and its provision, some of the more substantial risks lie hidden in systemic power imbalances that can easily be exacerbated, despite practitioners’ best intentions. This article uses a case study about homeless service provision in New York City (NYC) to offer a candid portrayal of undertaking research and design work in...

Automation Otherwise: A Review of “Automating Inequality”

by DANYA GLABAU, Implosion Labs What if we thought differently about how to integrate human and machine agencies?  Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the PoorVirginia Eubanks2018, 272 pp, St. Martin's Press As I sat down in to write this review of Virginia Eubanks’ latest book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, I couldn’t help but consider it in light of the growing restiveness among tech workers in response to their companies’ perceived ethical lapses. Rank and file employees have begun to speak out against the use of big data-driven software systems and infrastructure for ethically questionable ends like warfare, policing, and family separation at the United States-Mexico border. To date, these protests have mired several public-private contracts between government agencies and some of the world’s biggest tech companies in controversy, including Google’s Project Maven, a collaboration with the Pentagon...

Automating Inequality

VIRGINIA EUBANKS University of Albany, SUNY EPIC2018 Keynote Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her most recent book is Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, which dana boyd calls “the first [book] that I’ve read that really pulls you into the world of algorithmic decision-making and inequality, like a good ethnography should,” and Ethan Zuckerman calls “one of the most important recent books for understanding the social implications of information technology for marginalized populations in the US.” Eubanks is also the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age; and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith. Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, Harper’s and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and...

Human Sensemaking in the Smart City: A Research Approach Merging Big and Thick Data

ANNELIEN SMETS imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel BRAM LIEVENS imec-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel This paper aims to contribute to the debate on the integration of ethnography and data science by providing a concrete research tool to deploy this integration. We start from our own experiences with user research in a data-rich environment, the smart city, and work towards a research tool that leverages ethnographic praxis with data science opportunities. We discuss the different key components of the system, how they work together and how they allow for human sensemaking....