Putting the Public First – Part 3

This is Part 3 in our series on what it means to be “public-centred”.  It is an outline of my presentation to the Winkler Institute’s 2016 Justice Design Project group in August 2016.

The third and last part of the presentation was focused on considering how putting the public first is relevant to justice and to the role of JDP students.  For this post I will expand the focus to include anyone interested in justice reform.

pexels-photo-191842Change is a skillset; so is design.  They are new skillsets to many fields including justice.  There is a slow but steady recognition that a human-centred design approach is valuable for products and space but also for services and systems.  Design in these contexts is fascinating and challenging.  It is a new frontier.

Those who take on the role of designers in these systems are not mere outside chroniclers of change.  They have influence as participants as well as those who, with the right skills and opportunities, can nudge a system to a new place.  Kevin Slavin posted a fascinating piece entitled “You’re Not Stuck in Traffic You Are Traffic”.  He points out that we are struck by the “daunting complexity of influence rather than hubris of definition or control” and multiple colliding or intersecting systems.  He says:

“The designers of complex adaptive systems are not strictly designing systems themselves.  They are hinting those systems towards anticipated outcomes, from an array of existing interrelated systems.  These are designers that do not understand themselves to be in the center of the system.  Rather, they understand themselves to be participants, shaping the systems that interact with other forces, ideas, events and other designers.”

The designer is not the centre of the system or an outside neutral observer.  Design is a “participatory act”.

So this is an exciting place to be!  It is still evolving, with lots of room for creativity and figuring out how it all fits together.  If you love making connections between seemingly unrelated things, this is the place for you.  If you have a background in disciplines other than law, but related to the experience of justice system users (think psychology, healthcare, finance, mental health, marketing/advertising etc.), then your involvement is needed.  If you have experience within the system, see a need for change and want to get involved, let your interest be known. If you have experienced the system personally your stories are essential.

The September 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review was dedicated to “Design Thinking” as a “core competence”.  What better sign that design is becoming mainstream?  I believe there will be more opportunities out there for people with these skills including our Lab, similar Labs across the country (Winkler, Ryerson, Alberta Justice) and worldwide, Access to Justice BC and similar A2J organizations and government policy shops.

Closing comments

I will close with a wonderful quote from John Alber again which confirms that we live in a dynamic time that may indeed be ready for meaningful change:

The big news of these last few years is not the mildly revised economics of law practice (although that’s certainly what lawyers are talking about).  It is that how we serve the legal needs of our citizens and companies is finally beginning to shift, finally as in for the first time since just after the Norman Conquest.  And the principles of that redesign are not the staid and sober rules of the bar, a cloister as bound by stare decisis in its work rules as in its legal precedents.  No, the redesign now taking place in law is being done by the standards of today’s marketplace, which has come to expect iPhones and Teslas to replace Ma Bell and flivvers.”

Note:  I discovered that a “flivver” is a decrepit car.  Who knew?

Your comments are welcome!

Thank you

Kari D. Boyle, Coordinator, BC Family Justice Innovation Lab