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Transitioning Service Design within Government: An exploration of how the role of Service Design within Central Government agencies might benefit from Transition Design as a key artbiter of social change

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posted on 25.02.2021, 23:04 by Westwater, Logan
This research considers how Transition Design, an emergent design provocation, could be used to grow the role of Service Design within New Zealand Central Government. Leading this investigation is the assertion that currently within Central Government agencies a re-evaluation and re- scoping of the contributions that Service Design can make towards the resolution, mitigation or navigation of the complex social, cultural, political and economic issues these agencies now face is required. This study also asserts that Service Design could play a more impactful role within Central Government as an arbiter of change. To achieve this, the role of Service Design needs to be redefined and service designers’ skills recalibrated. This research considers how Transition Design could be used to achieve this aim.

Transition Design, as a provocation not a manifesto, challenges the existing paradigms which characterise Service Design and illuminates radical pathways for societal transitions to more sustainable futures. This study identifies opportunities within New Zealand Central Government structures, systems and processes to use Transition Design as a model to challenge existing modes and having done so, enable more radical social and environmental change.

A critical component of this research is a series of interviews conducted with Service Design practitioners currently working within or alongside New Zealand Central Government. These interviews were analysed and used to help define areas or stages of Service Design that TransitionDesign interventions could be tested against. Importantly, these interviews also served to develop new models that illustrated areas in which Transition Design methods or ideologies could be applied within the Central Government context. A second round of interviews critiqued the practical application of Transition Design within current and towards future Service Design practice. Having identified many of the key barriers currently limiting the effectiveness of Service Design and service designers working within Central Government, this research posits that the provocations exhibited within Transition Design will go a long way to enabling the expansion of both Service Design’s role and service designer’s capacities, capabilities in the resolution, mitigation and navigation of the complex social, cultural, political and economic issues that need to be addressed by New Zealand

Central Government.


Advisor 1

O'Sullivan, Nan

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Design for Social Innovation

Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design Innovation