Dublin City Council – Designing a New Consultation & Participation Process for Disabled Persons Organisations
Service Design | Dublin City Council
Context Studio has been working with Dublin City Council and Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) to co-design the way that the council consults on decisions affecting disabled people’s lives. Our work included pilot projects to test the process to ensure its sustainability, and a review of that trial (or prototype) to capture learnings.
This project was conducted using the principles of co-design, and techniques of Service Design. A forum was created where three key stakeholder groups – Disabled Persons Organisations, Elected Councillors, and DCC staff, could express their needs and ambitions for the process.
During the Discovery phase we held introductory calls with stakeholders, qualitative research interviews, and conducted desk research (incl. a review of the UN CRPD). We held interviews with representatives from our stakeholder groups, and explored the experiences and needs of each individual during consultation processes. 13 interviews in total included 4 representatives of Disabled Persons Organisations, 4 elected councillors and 5 DCC officials from various council departments.
Themes and insights were derived from the interview data through a process of synthesis and considered alongside a significant body of desk research.
Significant time was also spent getting familiar with best practice in accessible communications. All documentation and supporting assets produced during the project were to be accessible, and so the team became well-practiced in production of formats including screen-reader friendly and Easy-Read documentation.
We held two co-creation workshops bringing together stakeholders from all sides of the process. In these workshops we presented our research findings as inspiration and facilitated participants in coming up with potential solutions to the consultation challenges identified during the discovery phase.
Accessibility was a primary consideration in the design of these workshops. The decision to hold the workshop online was made following consultation with our co-design partners. Our approach ensured all workshop material was accessible, provided in advance, and that all participants felt free to think and speak, contributing via notes added to a digital whiteboard by our facilitators. Many ideas were generated, regularly reviewed and read aloud, ensuring that everyone fully understood the content of the workshop and could freely contribute.
Following workshop 1, ideas shared were combined by our team into six concepts for the future of consultation with DPOs. During workshop 2, participants were invited to discuss four of these concepts in further detail. The same breakout groups were used as before, with facilitators taking notes and summarising discussions in the plenary room.
Design & Prototyping
Our design team then set about specifying and describing a consultation process for DPOs which included the concepts above and would be sustainable during the pilot phase.
This involved the creation of a detailed service blueprint which outlined the consultation phases, roles involved, and the responsibilities of these roles both inside Dublin City Council, and also on the part of Disabled Persons Organisations. This blueprint was regularly adjusted and improved based on ongoing input from participating stakeholders and the DCC team.
Three pilot projects were then selected within Dublin City Council, and the project teams were asked to execute the DPO Consultation Process as part of their work.
A “Learning Log” was established prior to the commencement of these pilots, where all learnings and subsequent adjustments to the process were tracked. We also met fortnightly with pilot teams to review progress, which was invaluable as it allowed our team to learn quickly and to adapt the proposed process to meet the evolving needs of each pilot.
These pilot projects continue to run, and will inform the development and implementation of the new process into the future.
We closed the project with a short review phase, which comprised a comprehensive look back at learnings from the pilots, amendments of the consultation process, and the sharing of that process with DPO representatives and councillors.
DPOs and councillors were then invited to attend one last online workshop, during which two facilitated sessions allowed feedback on the consultation process, and input as to the future of the process when implemented at Dublin City Council.
Further assets such as guide cards, process overview posters, and process maps have since been produced to supplement and support the further implementation of this new Consultation Process across projects run by Dublin City Council.
Significant thanks are due to the disabled persons organisations who generously gave their time as part of this process, including Disabled Women Ireland, As I Am, Voice of Vision Impairment, National Platform of Self Advocates, and Independent Living Movement Ireland.