Designing in the Justice Sector

In university we were taught that design will change the world. In the early-2000’s we dreamed of being able to revolutionize healthcare or transportation through the power of design thinking.

Fast forward to today, and the abstract concepts and techniques we were taught in design school are now commonplace to people with business, management and social work backgrounds. The concept of user-centered design and design thinking is readily understood in many sectors. Last year I was given the opportunity to join the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab team as a designer and work on initiatives that are attempting giant holistic changes to the justice system – exactly what we dreamed about as university students.

On November 8th, 2017 I entered a brand new world. During my initial session with the entire lab group at the BC Courthouse Library, I was looking to understand the existing projects and see where I could jump in and provide a different viewpoint. Instead, I found something different – there was so much terminology to learn!

Understanding the landscape I would be working in was initially a huge challenge, and while I’ve received a few ‘crash courses’ on certain aspects of the family justice system there’s still a ton of information to digest. It’s a nice design challenge – I’m tackling an unfamiliar area, attempting to study and understand the principles and rules of the environment, and learning from the ‘users’ of the system.

Initial A-ha Moment!

During my time so far with the lab, I’ve primarily focused on the Youth Voices initiative, and during our previous workshop in January 2018 I had a true ‘a-ha moment’.

I’d poured over the prior research and transcripts/findings from the previous workshop, but to hear the in-person discussion from the workshop participants (with a variety of stories of their experiences with separation) felt completely different. The participants were willingly giving up (another) weekend day to help us push to improve family justice in BC, and their dedication and passion was remarkable. It was an eye-opening, inspiring day that left us all both drained and energized by the time it had wrapped up in the late afternoon.

We will host our next Youth Voices workshop at the end of September, and most participants will be returning for a third time to continue with their amazing support of the initiative. We are eager to begin prototyping solutions and pushing positive change into the justice system, and I’m excited to continue making an impact on the lab through design, both internally and externally