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Using Design Thinking in the Social Sector


Thursday, 16th April 2015 at 10:34 am
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist
Innovate, inspire, deliver and delight; this is what the Social Sector does so well. Stephen Cox, who works with Westpac’s Digital Customer experience team, adopts a similar mantra.

Thursday, 16th April 2015
at 10:34 am
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist


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Using Design Thinking in the Social Sector
Thursday, 16th April 2015 at 10:34 am

Innovate, inspire, deliver and delight; this is what the Social Sector does so well. Stephen Cox, who works with Westpac’s Digital Customer experience team, adopts a similar mantra.

His job is to help Westpac teams design and build the processes, products and services that create an awesome experience for Westpac customers. According to Stephen, Not for Profit organisations can also apply the principles of design thinking when looking for solutions.

1. Customer Focus is not Optional

Central to design thinking is a deep understanding of customers’ needs, from their perspective. For a Not for Profit, the customer may be the marginalised youth who will benefit from an employment program, the large volunteer base waiting to help the cause, or members expecting support from a professional association. Empathising with the customers’ needs, and understanding what it would take to make your organisation great for them, is key.

2. Look Within

Pause to consider – what would success look like for your organisation? What would success look like for each of your distinct customer groups? Where do your organisational values match those of your customers? Seeking this understanding will unlock opportunities to achieve shared goals.

3. Look Outwards

Identify unmet needs in your sector. Ask your donors and volunteers how they prefer to support you, what they need, and how they like to be acknowledged. Empathise with the people your organisation serves. Room to Read Australia Foundation, creates a highly successful Wine Gala each year, the result of bringing the cause of global education to enthusiastic donors with a shared interest in fine wines.

4. Open the Flood Gates to Great Ideas

This is where your inspiration and energy meet the data you have carefully collected. Brainstorm, dream, question, challenge, and consult with your customers.

5. Create it, Test it, and then Scale it.

Make a prototype, seek feedback from your customers, then continue to test and refine your ideas until you have created something that amazes them.

By collecting information about how your customers prefer to use your services, you generate a bank of knowledge that can be accessed when you are ready to grow and expand your services.

Anyone can do this. It takes all the skills you already have, plus the willingness to put customers at the centre of what you do.

6. Where to start?

A great starting point is the free download of IDEO’s Human Centred Design toolkit (www.ideo.com/ work/human-centered-designtoolkit).

The Stanford University Institute of Design offers a “virtual crash course in design thinking” (dschool.stanford.edu).

About Westpac Social Sector Banking: Westpac Social Sector Banking is committed to the For Purpose sector, with a national team of dedicated specialists and customised banking solutions to service the sector. Beyond banking, Westpac has several initiatives in place – directly helping to build capacity in social sector communities. For more information visit: Westpac Social Sector Banking


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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