Service Design in a Climate Emergency - resources

This is a wiki post - anyone can edit it and add links, extra text, and resources. Don’t be shy!

The graphic recording from the day, lovingly crafted by Anja Reise

These were key challenges listed in the workshop:

1. Lack of tangible incentive to change

Right now, even if there is an incentive to do something, it’s not tangible, and more urgent incentives frequently take precedence.

2. Lack of transparency - greenwash vs true sustainability

Many of us don’t know how to assess if actions an organisation taking (or indeed stuff we might do) are meaningful, or if they amount to greenwash. We don’t know if there things we can measure, or if we even should be trying to measure them. If we have agreed to measure something, having trustworth numbers is also a a challenge.

3. It’s difficult to see the impact of your decisions

the feedback loop is often very slow, and even in places where people try to track the environmental impact of what they do, because reporting might happen yearly, it’s difficult to learn about what works and what doesn’t

4. Lack of knowledge of effectiveness

Even if you do accept that you can’t see the impact of something, many of us still have no idea what decisions have impact, and which ones don’t.

Links and resources

There’s some good work coming from Doteveryone and Further discussion on the limits of user centred design, for complex problems

Going from product design to service design

Deliberate one planet co-design of living spaces - with service design firm Holon in Barcelona:

Where service design ends and system change begins

And yet, if we look at the language, tools and practices that are commonly applied in the social and public sector, they are largely founded on a very different premise. More often than not, they reinforce an unhelpful ‘producer-consumer’ distinction. Some actors (organisations/experts) are seen to ‘produce’ (innovate, design, deliver) value, whereas others (‘beneficiaries’ or ‘users’) are seen to ‘consume’ it.

Resources for thinking more widely than user centred design

There’s some good writing from Design Dialogues, with links to some new tools, including a systems design toolkit to facilitate discussions. It’s free to download and in use in a number of larger organisations.


Super helpful, thank you Chris and everyone who contributed. Am looking at this from the perspective of someone who will need to recruit design help for a new service & stack of tools. In a way it is much simpler to make space for the above when you are setting up something new. It will require everyone being willing to put in a lot of effort to make it happen at the beginning. I guess a question is how you would bake that into the process in a way that doesnt burn everyone out from the added complexity. Comes down to design pattern for setting up new businesses and business models in a climate emergency. Might do something around this in early 2020.