Leaving no one behind – designing ACT government services for inclusion at scale


Government services must deliver for everyone in our diverse community. Too often, those most in need are left behind. So together with the ACT Government we led a research project to uncover the barriers people experience when accessing services, and explore how government services can be designed more inclusively.

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  • The ACT Government recognised that barriers to accessing government services are real and impact people's lives. These barriers won't go away unless we take deliberate action across government. So we led a design research project with our diverse community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people living with a disability, the LGBTQI+ community, people with English as a second language and government concession holders. Our research explored the barriers that exist in accessing ACT government services for these groups, what more inclusive government services look like, how we get there, and where we should start.

  • We conducted contextual research to understand how people currently experience government services, what barriers exist and how this impacts them. We then moved into experimental, prototype-driven research to explore the underlying causes of these barriers in the context of real world services. This gave us primary evidence on the best way to overcome identified barriers. Our approach grounded in co-design, prototyping and testing meant we engaged directly with the community to understand what works. This led to evidence-based recommendations because we could translate research learnings into easy-to-understand and actionable insights.

  • We identified immediate changes required to design more inclusive services, and uncovered a more complex, systemic challenge. To serve our diverse community, we've traditionally created different, targeted pathways for unique cases. While this has been done with good intentions, segmented pathways can lead to exclusion and inequity. So the required shift is designing mainstream pathways that are flexible enough to cater to the diversity of human difference. These findings demonstrated how government needs to continue to evolve its approach to designing and delivering services to meet the community's changing needs and circumstances, and thereby ensure that no-one is left behind.

  • We implemented measures that put wellbeing first - both for participants and our researchers. Because of the nature of the research and the individuals we were engaging with, we implemented a research plan to ensure we engaged users and stakeholders in an ethical, safe and respectful way. A key principle was to treat our engagement as a conversation, not a transaction. Engaging a community implies there will be an outcome based on their involvement. We know that success would only come from being committed to delivering on our promises. When nothing changes, you add to their feeling of research fatigue. So we ensured that we provided direct feedback to participants on what we found. And because we prototyped and tested our hypotheses using real world government services, we were able to identify both immediate changes to services that tackle identified barriers, and better understand how to address barriers that require more systemic and cultural change. David Colussi, Executive Branch Manager ACT Digital, reflected on the project: "What we found most impactful about the project was being able to self-reflect on the system of public service we have created through the real life experiences of some of our most vulnerable users."