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Cross Country Comparison On Service Design

Co-VAL > Blog > News > Cross Country Comparison On Service Design

Service design is commonly seen to provide promising avenues for innovation and improvement of public services in policy documents and in research literature (Allio, 2014; Bason, 2010, 2014, 2017; Donetto, Pierri, Tsianakas, & Robert, 2015; Junginger & Sangiorgi, 2011; Junginger, 2017; Thomson & Koskinen, 2012). Technological developments and digitalization are also closely related to service design. This is categorized in different ways in the literature. On the one hand, new digital platforms may provide means for co-designing services with users because voices can be included in new ways and participation can take place on new platforms. Service design on the other hand can also be used to improve user interface or mobile applications that are important for providing public services or for implementing preventive measures.

Service marketing literature has been influential in framing service design, however it has ultimately grown into a multi-disciplinary field that brings together various ideas, concepts and methods (Sangiorgi & Junginger, 2015). Therefore, it is clear that defining service design is difficult, because it is framed differently across related disciplines.

In line with the overall aims of CoVAL, the study of service design focuses on how service design may contribute to co-creation of value with service users and citizens. In specific, CoVAL aims to achieve clarity on what is meant by service design and to identify the literature that deals specifically with the application of service design thinking and methods in public service contexts. More precisely, the purpose has been to understand how the existing literature deals with the potential and constraints of using service design to improve public services.


The key findings of D4.1 Report on cross country comparison on service design by Maria Røhnebæk (Høgskolen i Innlandet) and Kirsty Strokosch (University of Edinburg) are presented below:


  • French Literature
    French literature provides a growing literature on service design/design approaches, which is both engaging and significant to better understand the role of design in the context of public services. It also includes theoretical developments, empirical studies and critical discussions that examine both upsides and downsides to the use of service design approaches.


  • German Literature
    Searches in the German literature show that service design and design thinking are concepts in use, as there are handbooks and textbooks available written in German, yet these are mostly directed towards service design in businesses. Service design seems to be used interchangeably with ‘service engineering’ and ‘Dienstleistungsentwicklung’ (service development).


  • Norwegian Literature
    Norwegian literature indicates that service design in the public sector is an up and coming topic, especially in the technology in healthcare services (Hansen, Almqvist, Ørjasæter, & Kistorp, 2017) and in mental health care services (Ness, Edwards, & Karlsson, 2017). The searches also revealed that service design is increasingly gaining attention in the public policy discourse.


  • Spanish Literature
    Spanish literature’s findings are associated with movements towards more open and collaborative forms of government with a focus on citizens’ participation and the role of open source technology and social media. In particular, the searches presented how public managers understand the notion of open government and its practical relevance at a local level (Criado & Ruvalcaba, 2016) and the emergence both of ‘smart governance paradigm’ and of wikiGovernment (Grande, 2016a).


  • Hungarian Literature
    Searches in Hungarian literature indicate that service design thinking has only been adopted to a limited extent in the academic literature on public services and that is not used by Hungarian PSOs in practice. However, consulting services have been offering service design projects for a few years, primarily targeting for-profit companies.


To summarize, Maria Røhnebæk (Høgskolen i Innlandet) and Kirsty Strokosch (University of Edinburg) have found that searching for literature in this field is challenging and that publications on service design may contain interesting empirical studies set in public service contexts without making this explicit. It is merely in the French literature that academic publications are found with an explicit focus on service design in public services. The searches in various languages have moreover identified grey literature that is useful for framing and planning the upcoming case studies to be conducted in the different partner countries.

The review process gives a strong indication that studies of service design in public services are not substantial. Service design and co-design are topics that are gaining increased attention, and this review might have been carried out at a point in time when numerous publications are under way. Thus we might be witnessing an emerging research dialogue on service design.


Read the Report on cross country comparison on service design here.


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