Health and human services organizations are in the business of providing social and wellness services to people in need. But how can services for people be truly effective if they are not designed together with people?

This is the essence of service design. It is a collaborative, iterative approach that involves all of the people who are part of a service and puts them at the heart of design, bringing their voices into the process from the very beginning. Service designers immerse themselves in all aspects of a service—from who will use it to what problems it must solve. They create prototypes. They solicit feedback. They course correct.

Organizations—and the people they serve—are already seeing exciting results. Working with Fjord, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services redesigned its child support calculator in a clear, transparent and human way. The co-design process was not “build it and they will come” development in which technology solutions are built in isolation. Instead of creating something for caseworkers, the department created it with them, using service design methods.

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