Design Thinking and Social Innovation for Public Service


As part of its public service innovation agenda, the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE) hosted a consultation with leading government practitioners of Social Innovation and Design Thinking in 2013. Attendees included delegates from member states such as Australia, Denmark, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the UK.

The consultation provided delegates with the opportunity to debate the potential, utility, and challenges in the context of service delivery and policy development and explore the question of how participating Government representatives and UNDP practitioners could adapt and apply these concepts to their area of work.

In order to ensure an experience-based facilitation and documentation of the event, the GCPSE commissioned Eden Strategy Institute to moderate the plenary sessions; conceptualize and deliver a familiarization breakout session; summarize the key messages and discussion outcomes at the closure of the event; and produce an Event Summary report after the sessions.


Following the opening address by the Director of the GCPSE, Eden conducted a bodystorming exercise with the delegates to visually identify their peers with varying levels of experience in Design Thinking and Social Innovation, as well as differing opinions towards approaching transformation in public service. This helped to familiarize the participants with each other, and spark off initial conversations that set a tone of collaboration for the rest of the consultation.

After a practitioner panel and policy note presentations on Social Innovation and Design Thinking, Eden facilitated a “Design Thinking Studio” with a lecture on the Design Thinking process, useful toolkits, and a prototyping challenge to provide hands-on experience for participants to practice Design Thinking in the policy and public service context. Teams introspected on their creative approach, collaboration levels, leadership styles, and analysis of design trade-offs.

On the second day, Eden brought participants through a “sense-making” session where delegates shared on their ecosystem developments, the levels of awareness of public service innovation in their respective countries, leadership, co-creation processes, and supporting infrastructure, in order to identify starting points to adapt and apply co-designed processes and innovative institutions. After forming an Innovator Support Network among the participants along key themes, participants went on a “Public Service Innovation Safari” visiting interesting installations such as Singapore’s NEWater visitor centre, the Civil Service College, and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and the Jurong Social Service Office to understand their novel approaches to public service delivery.


Participants gave feedback that they found the sessions refreshing as they might not otherwise immediately feel confident innovating when they returned to their offices, and were excited to apply these approaches to policy design to transform public service delivery around the world.

Created with Sketch. “The UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence hosted a consultation on the Co-Design of Public Policy and Services with an international delegation of leading Government decision-makers and public service thinker-practitioners. We decided to appoint Eden to moderate and document the event, based on their expertise in Social Innovation and Design Thinking in the public service context, as well as their strong facilitation background. We found the Eden team creative in designing useful exercises that moved the audience, thoughtful in leading a thorough discussion among the delegates, and confident in working through the issues to summarize key takeaways from the session. As an outcome of the consultation, we have been able to foster deep engagement with the participants, a foundation for public service transformation among our member states. We found the Eden team highly professional and continually seeking new ways to add value, and impressive in their commitment to promoting public service excellence.”


Max Everest-Phillips


UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence