Service Design Methods?

Current global practices in service design use a mix of methods added on to conventional system design practices (Manzini, Vezzoli et al. 2001; Morelli 2002; Stickdorn and Schneider 2011). These new tools and methods are in the main drawn from contemporary software development practices in the field of interaction design (Manzini 2009).

By becoming significantly integrated into retail business practice discourses, service design has had a significant and visible impact upon society (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004). The goal of this form of design is to improve ‘ease’ of customers’ access to services, improvement of ‘customer experience’ by the innovative use of internet and telecommunications infrastructure that is common in urban contexts (Hollins and Hollins 1991; Varadarajan 2009).

Service Design projects in health service delivery have validated inclusive practices such as ‘co-creation’, through examples such as the RED project of the Design Council UK {Cottam, 2004 #845}. Significantly RED and other milestone projects in service design have been urban projects.

When this practice moves to work in the context of rural poor – there is a  potential for new theoretical frameworks!!

Service Design for Rural Poor

Service provision for rural poor is a unique field characterized by neglect and poor performance of public services (Sainath 1992; Louis 2007). Approaches to the poor and marginalized in design have been characterized by a discourse of social engagement and social entrepreneurship (Jegou and Manzini 2008). While a focus upon the rural poor (Papanek 1985) has found form as the practice of social design (Margolin and Margolin 2002) with a strong focus upon artifacts (Rawsthorn 2007) the main paradigm is still one of pushing from the centre to the periphery (Er 2001). Interestingly if we were to pick up the counter current of documenting practices of the poor or old and traditional (Gennep, Vizedom et al. 1960; Varadarajan 2009) and amplify the essential paradigm that characterizes them we see similarities with social design projects in their approach of focussing upon self reliance. Service provision in health, universally viewed as a state subject has two key problems; one is the focus upon increasing access to and compliance with state services in remote areas (Humphery, Weeramanthri et al. 2001) and two is that “provider pluralism”, where different forms of service providers are allowed to operate, often goes unrecognized and is marginalized in state plans (2005). Provider pluralism (Chernichovsky 2002; Sheehan 2009), actively encouraged in urban areas is mirrored by self reliance in remote areas. With more regulation in rural contexts such pluralism often gets ‘written out’ and even competent local health practitioners could have their work rendered illegal (Jeffery, Jeffery et al. 1984; Ram 2001).


To summarise, service provision for the rural poor is a complex context for design which demands that service design theory needs to move beyond: one, the urban context and reliance on infrastructure to become more widely applicable, and two, privileging the client’s needs and ‘work creatively with messy and sometimes contradictory realities to achieve better outcomes’ (Standing and Bloom 2002).

Consuming health services

Historically, a greater focus upon technology has suppressed the discourse of access (Candi 2007).

In health care projects, service design has benefited the client, often a publicly owned organization (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004).

Extending such a paradigm of practice, producer-side thinking, into disadvantaged communities often leads to unintended consequences such as the exploitation of rural-poor communities. (Goodman 1968; Whitehead, Dahlgren et al. 2001; Wagstaff 2002).

Models: push model, pull model

Oppositions: Centralized funding versus User Pays model, entitlement versus consumption

Services for poor and Marginalized

The current practice of service design fails when used to develop services for poor and marginalized communities.

Service design is currently centered around urban and affluent contexts.

Service design theory has evolved with a focus upon privileging expert discourses in a predominantly urban context (Shostack 1982; Normann 2000; Leadbeater and Cottam 2008) This form of practice is focused upon redesigning existing services to either reduce cost, or improve customer experience and is predominantly targeted at urban, educated and affluent consumers of services (Frug 1998; Glaeser, Kolko et al. 2001). Service design theory has two main themes:

  • • Affordances and technologies of interaction.
  • • Increasing ease of access to services.

Of Rights and Resilience: Why Women’s Rights are Key to Thriving in the Age of the “Black Swan” | RH Reality Check

Welcome to the age of the Black Swan.

The tornado that nearly leveled the city of Joplin, Missouri in May was a Black Swan; so was the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan in March; and the “hundred-year floods” that now take place every couple of years in the American Midwest.

A Black Swan is a low-probability, high-impact event that tears at the very fabric of civilization. And they are becoming more common: weather-related disasters spiked in 2010, killing nearly 300,000 people and costing $130 billion.

via Of Rights and Resilience: Why Women’s Rights are Key to Thriving in the Age of the “Black Swan” | RH Reality Check.

The Maternal Health Ecosystem on Cloth

I took this to Assam when on my field trip – as a cultural probe.