By Anja Laubscher
Dave Seliger is the executive director of Public School, a non-profit organization focused on building capacity in local government agencies to make government more effective and equitable.
We spoke with Seliger about Public School and its role in training public servants in the skills that they need to deliver better public services.
Location in NYC:
Public School visits government agencies at their locations across the city and has trained more than sixteen government agencies, including the NYC Department of Health, NYC Department of Buildings, and the Brooklyn Public Library.
Project launch date:
We started designing the workshops in August of 2016, and delivering the trainings in December of 2016. It is an ongoing project, and ideally we will reach a point when all public servants have these skills already, but there are still so many public servants and agencies to reach.
The project purpose:
Typically, we have conversations with the city agency to understand the challenges they’re facing. Then we work with them to identify what skill sets would be most helpful in teaching their staff to solve that problem and similar problems in the future. Then we bring in one of our three design and consulting partners to lead a workshop focused on developing the skills to tackle that problem.
Key audience for project:
We primarily focus on public servants who are in a position to either design or deliver public services. It varies by agency, but it’s really about public servants who are facing a real issue, and just don’t feel like they have the skills or knowledge to solve that challenge.
Design field/discipline(s) represented:
Service design, participatory design, program design, and process design. But we don’t use the word “design” in our workshops. We’ve found that when you talk about design or innovation with government, especially with long-time serving public servants, it can be really off-putting to introduce new terminology. Design is embedded in everything we do, but we don’t frame ourselves as designers.
Designers involved and specific roles:
We partner with TYTHEdesign, a capacity-building firm, to do all of our community engagement training. 3×3 Design, a social innovation consultancy, to do our program design and evaluation training. And Public Works Partners, a public nonprofit consulting firm, to do our strategic and program planning training. We partner with these firms because they have a deep knowledge working with government agencies and have interesting ideas for making design easy to understand.
The challenge that we’re constantly facing is how do we make what we do most relevant and accessible to the public servants that we’re trying to train.
One challenge overcome in bringing this project to life:
The challenge that we’re constantly facing is how do we make what we do most relevant and accessible to the public servants that we’re trying to train. And how do we overcome what public servants or government agencies see as what they need and really broaden their horizons to introduce new ways of thinking and working.