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Service design at the MoJ: 'Designing for people in crisis'

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We attended the Service Design Fringe Festival in October last year and were talking to jobseekers, as we’re currently looking to hire a couple of service designers and interaction designers at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). I had 60 seconds to share what it’s like designing services at the MoJ, and this is what I said (more or less):

“We talk a lot about ‘designing for people in crisis’ here at the MoJ. Nobody chooses to use our services. If you’re engaging with the justice system, something has probably gone very wrong in your life — or the life of someone you know. Young people in trouble with the law. Victims of domestic abuse. Men and women in custody or on probation, trying to get their lives back on track. These are our users. Not to mention the tens of thousands of dedicated professionals who work in the prisons and courts and elsewhere in the justice system. We design for all of them.”

“It’s a difficult job, but an incredibly rewarding one, as we know that the design decisions we make every day are going to have a real impact on the lives of some of the most marginalised people in society.”

Our design team is about 30-strong now. We’ve got some people who are more focused on interaction design and others who are more comfortable doing bigger-picture, strategic service design. But all our designers have to be able to zoom in and zoom out — service designers have to be able to design really good interactions, and interaction designers have to understand how those interactions happen within the bigger picture of an end-to-end service and a system of interrelated actors and services. 

We have designers with over a decade’s experience and others who are just starting in the field. Our designers have worked across government, in the private sector, and for charities. We’re a diverse group from half a dozen countries. 

We work in agile, multi-disciplinary teams, solving problems together with product managers, user researchers, delivery managers, developers, business analysts and technical architects. It’s a supportive, nurturing place to work, where you’re surrounded by kind, passionate people who all want to make a difference in people’s lives. 

We’ve designed the services to send money to someone in prison and to help people claim for the costs of a child’s funeral. We helped develop the department’s strategy to support people with legal issues so people can get problems sorted before they result in homelessness, spiraling debt, or devastating custody battles.

We’re developing a design system for the MoJ, we’re helping policymakers design policy in user-centred ways and we’re pushing the boundaries of what it means for the government to be user-centred. 

Our Chief Digital and Information Officer, Tom Read, recently posted a short blog about our strategy. He says that “digital transformation is designing services based on user needs, making it easier for the citizen to do what they need to do, and cheaper for the government to provide their services.” 

It’s not an easy thing we do — trying to improve people’s lives and transform how the government works — but the challenge is absolutely worth it. But don’t just take my word for it — see what my colleagues have to say about working at MoJ Digital and Technology. And then... come join us!

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