The webinar on ethics in design took place on 28 September 2021. With viewers from Japan, Norway, Italy, Turkey, United Kingdom, Israel, Greece, Canada, The Netherlands, America and Argentina (a.o.) and speakers from Denmark, Chile and Ukraine.
Design has established itself as a valuable competence in the public sector. But what are the implications of designers getting a seat at the table? How do we take ethics along in the process?
The path for designers in the public sector is a minefield of ethical questions. In this webinar we will dive into some of these questions from various perspectives – from the academic point of view as well as the practical as we will learn from policy labs in e.g. Ukraine.
As designers we shape the services (and sometimes the policy) of the government. What role has ethics in our work? How do you take values along in your work, where do they collide with all kinds of though real-world-issues and how do you cope with this? And if the system says no, can we – as civil servants – say yes? These questions were subject of the webinar.
On this page you can watch the webinar (again), read a short summary per keynote and find the links shared in the webinar and in the chat.
Annelie Berner: Designing ethical futures
Independent interaction designer and researcher, focused on data visualisation and ethics, in Denmark
Technological devices are impacting our lives in unexpected ways. Designers have told Berner that they cannot seem to sufficiently stress the importance of ethical issues within their company, resulting in horrible publicity. What if we could develop future scenarios, to uncover and express more powerfully what might go wrong? Then, maybe we can make different choices today, steering towards a more positive future. Ethics can be useful here in that it gives us new ways of thinking – what Berner calls ‘lenses’. Each theory is a different lens through which we can look at and discuss or argue about what we are working on right now in different ethical dimensions. Whatever it is you are working on you can look at it on different ethical lenses.
As a starting point, Berner introduces a product: the smart shoe, which will measure and improve your runs. She takes the audience on a journey to look at this shoe in different ways through four lenses.
Lens 1 is used for zooming in, systems thinking. The approach here is to explore the smart shoe in order to learn all the possibilities it offers runners, walkers, people who are moving. There is an app that helps people set goals. The data from the shoes can be sent to health authorities anonymously to aid further research. There are, however, certain aspects of the shoe that may give us the idea something is wrong, but we don’t know, or can’t express what.
Lens 2 The sharpening lens. We use this lens to think about what kind of good we expect the shoe to do. If, as a designer, you put values that you care about into a product, maybe that product will help others to have more enjoyable, and ethical, lives. Apart from running better and faster, Berner focuses on well-being and autonomy. How are these values going to relate to a shoe? At first glance, the shoe looks fine. It tries it best to help people have good lives. But is there any kind of scenario where the design might contradict those values? You may, for instance, come up with unintended consequences in the goal setting app: Suppose that, by default, the app sends users notifications about how they are doing. But if they aren’t meeting their goals, this starts to weigh more and more heavily. Perhaps the app should, by default, allow users to opt in or out of receiving notifications about how they didn’t achieve their goal today.
Lens 3: scale and zooming in and out over time.What if everyone in the world had my product? How would their lives be impacted? As a result, we can come up with many different scenarios.
Lens 4: storytelling and trying to see the complexity and the interconnected nature of every single item that we put into different homes.
So, these stories and scenarios bring up conflicts and pull us in different directions at the same time. One way to get to those stories is through ethical theory, some of which Berner has been sprinkling in as she talked. Suppose the shoe is being promoted as another means to improve your health and lower the CO2 concentration in Denmark. How does that relate to the value of autonomy? Thus, scenarios and questions may provoke your thinking, maybe help you foresee possible challenges that you may face in future and give you an idea about what to do now.
To sum up, the thing is firstly to try and understand what you are working on. Secondly to articulate values. Then, to identify tensions between your values and your work. Lastly, to speculate and come up with scenarios in terms of scale and time, provoking further discussion.
Iryna Kupchynska & Ievgen Kylymnyk: Leave no one behind
Iryna is Solutions Designer at UNDP-organized Policy Lab and Ievgen is Head of Exploration at UNDP in Ukraine
Ethical thinking involves various perspectives, but it is essential that you know your own ethical views and objections and do not get caught up to other people’s. The aim of the UNPD programme is that you don’t leave anybody behind and think from a human rights-based perspective, keeping in mind whom you do not see in the change: whom are we missing? You need to explore this and then go looking for the people you still miss.
The Ukraine government programmes set out to enhance confidence in government and to provide people with more digital skills.
– 65 per cent of the population lacks a good internet connection. This must be improved to boost the use of digital systems.
– 53 per cent of the Ukrainian population lacks proper digital skills, this must be improved step by step, taking individual needs into account.
– 2.7 million people have a disability. This was not known before and thus it has been given insufficient consideration.
– 82 government websites and 7 service platforms were not fully accessible.
This has been resolved by involving users – including people with a disability – in every stage of the design process. Moreover, legislation has been adjusted, and knowledge about all the changes made and about how to reach the target groups has been publicly shared so that it can be used.
Involve people in problem solving, show everyone that you share problems and solve them together. Often other people don’t even know there is a problem, and sometimes they take it for granted. Take the example of burning general or garden waste, which burdens the environment, but also produces extra heating. By sharing the problem with everyone, you can also find better solutions together. By collaborating with citizens in matching the problems to solutions you provide opportunities for solutions to cross-fertilise.
The ethical idea is whether to only use the available citizen data or give data back as well? And should we use data at all if we don’t give it back.
Conclusion: Involve people from all strata of society in your design process, including people with a disability. Do you know who your target group is? Talk to them and involve them. What other stakeholders might there be? Look for them and involve them too. Everybody deserves to be heard. Your target group is not joe average – he doesn’t exist. Involve everyone in finding problems and work out the solutions together. The power of the majority ensures better solutions that people actually want to have and use. This will also enhance citizens’ confidence in government.
Roman Yosif: Public sector innovations in Chile
Executive Director at Laboratorio de Gobierno in Chile
Context and Public Sector Innovation
Because everything is ethical, everything is also political. Dealing with ethical challenges is something a govlab is facing on a daily basis. I’d like to tell you a bit about our work at the Laboratoria de Gobierno with respect to two different cases that show which type of challenges we are facing.
In Chile, we are currently dealing with a very important political, economic and social crisis. Not only related to the government, but also to the social outbreak we had two years ago. We believe that crises are tackled by innovation, bearing in mind that innovation is not a goal in itself. It’s a tool: a new paradigm in public management.
There is a difference between Public Sector Innovation and classic public management that can be seen in the Laboratorio de Gobierno’s 5 Guiding Principles. Public Sector Innovation is ethical because it works with an evidence-based and implementation-oriented mindset, as opposed to traditional public policy which, more often than not, is guided by a political leader’s gut feeling.
What is Laboratorio de Gobierno?
Chile’s Laboratorio de Gobierno works with a three-pronged approach.
- Agile consultancy services to install capabilities while implementing solutions in the public administration.
- A community-based approach through the Red de Innovadores Públicos
- An index to measure PSI capabilities inside government institutions.
Innovation projects work on different spaces, such as service design, attention model and organisational set-up. They usually run on a 3-5 month cycle for design and implementation.
The key questions we face on a daily basis:
- Which cases should we prioritise?
- What is the limit of use of sensitive information?
- Should we chose quality or velocity?
Domestic Violence during lockdown
- Leveraging tech on the first part of the service (triage) to enable prioritisation of more urgent cases.
- Establishing weekly cycles for faster delivery.
- Understanding that the first solution was not going to be perfect, yet at the same time it was important to get the core solution on the ground a.s.a.p.
Drug Abuse attention line (Fono Drogas)
- Understanding which kind of service users need from the government. It is much more than improving metrics.
- The challenge of inviting vulnerable users for testing or research activities. Adapting to a slower process to be mindful of vulnerable users needs and fears. Adapting processes to the context.
General lessons learned about Implementing PSI
- The more you test – the more pertinent the innovation will be. It will be a better use of public resources.
- Any result of a collaboration design process is by definition a public good and therefore should be open access. It is key to share the lessons learned.
- Having decisive answers from the state can put pressure beyond what is reasonable on public officials if we do not transfer new skills to them.
- You must co-create with users throughout the process.
- Making methodologies transparent to all stakeholders
- Install capabilities not just at an individual level but also at an institutional level.
What is an ethical imperative in general?
Be at the service of great challenges of each country.
These links to articles, webpages and websites were shared in the chat:
- Looking back on the international webinar ‘How to build an innovation culture’ (April 20 2021)
- Annelie @ TedXCopenhagen
- UNDP Ukraine
- Digital Literacy of the population of Ukraine Report
- European Commission Digital Literacy report
- BBC Ethics Principles
- Collective Intelligence
- Collective Intelligence Design Playbook
- How to design a human-centered digital transformation initiative: An emerging case study from Ukraine
- What is the Data Ethics Canvas?
- Another Angle: Public Innovation Perspectives seeks to synthesize the main results and learnings of the Government Laboratory in its work to design and implement better services, putting people and their needs at the center
Organised by the international Design in Government community:
- D-box – National Center for Transforming public services , consisting of DOGA
(Design and Architecture Norway, AHO (the Oslo School of architecture and design) and
- BI (Norwegian business school)
- Forum for service design, a network of professionals in the Municipality of Oslo
- The Dutch community Gebruiker Centraal (User Needs First)