EPISODE 30: JULIANNE COUGHLAN FROM CORK COUNTY COUNCIL

Julianne has been working for Cork County Council since 2003. Just like the council has evolved over time, her job has changed a lot too. She started in IT and over the years she moved into another role within the Council, more focused on the evaluation of their services. With this new perspective, she started looking into the opportunities of a Service Design approach to transform some of the Council’s services. 

Cork County Council is the second largest local authority in Ireland. They offer over 600 services to the civilians of Cork. This means they have an all-time challenge to deliver the best possible services for their customers. Over the years, they have tried a lot of different processes, from technology-based to lean six sigma, to other BPI sort of approaches. But they always had the feeling there was something missing in these many approaches: a customer focus. A few years ago, they came across Service Design, and started experimenting. They formed the Service rePublic team, and never looked back since. 

What we learned

The Service rePublic is a dedicated service design unit based within the Cork County Council. They chose the name Service rePublic because they wanted to bring a radical change in the way they offer their services. There is something quite different about this unit. It consists of a cross departmental team of five people with different backgrounds, i.e. IT, HR, organisational development, change management and the like. Because of this variety of expertise within the team, the Service rePublic constantly has access to diverse insights into how their services could be delivered.

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Most surprising insight

There is an interesting contradiction in the way the Service rePublic relates to the Council. On the one hand, they want to be seen as much as possible as a part of the organisation. But on the other hand, they understand that there is power in being perceived as something slightly different, something new that might deliver outside expertise. That’s why they deliberately branded themselves differently to the other teams and sections within the organisation.

From the very beginning, they felt that they want to let people know that they are there to do something different and try something new. But they are not at all exclusive, on the contrary, when working on projects they invite people from other departments to become part of their team for the duration of the whole project. The key is really about finding the right balance between being seen as the expert outsider but keeping the expertise in-house at the same time. 

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a behind the scene story

We met Julianne for the first time during the Global Service Design Conference 2017 in Madrid. Back then she gave a talk about a very down to earth case where service design had made a difference. Again during the conference this year we had the chance to listen to her talk as an advocate for service design in general. It was very nice to see her growing expertise and evolution into a clearly seasoned expert. 

This is a truly inspirational example for governments all over the world!

interesting links

Twitter page Service rePublic

Website Cork County Council