A Design Ethnographer in an Innovation Nation: The Scottish Approach to Government

Dr Cat Macauley, Scottish Government, 4th November 2015 at RCA Kensington



Dr Cat Macauley, Head of User Research & Engagement at the Scottish Government, gave the LDoc Keynote at RCA Kensington on 4 November. Watch the keynote here on Vimeo.


Cat Macaulay is a design ethnographer and Head of User Research and Engagement at the Scottish Government. She works in the Digital Directorate supporting public sector and central government service transformation projects, though also works more widely across government contributing to projects on innovating democratic processes and citizen participation in policy and service design. In a career spanning 30 years she has worked in academia, business, the third sector and overseas aid. If you follow her on Twitter (@operanomad) you will also know that really what makes her happy outside of work is sitting in an opera house waiting for the curtain to come up.


A Design Ethnographer in an Innovation Nation: The Scottish Approach to Government
Scottish Government is at the heart of a national effort in Scotland to innovate how government and democracy are ‘done’. The period since the referendum has seen an upsurge of interest in innovation in civil society and in government. The First Minister has clearly stated her ambition that we ‘pass power to people and communities’ and that we strive to be the most open and accessible government we can be. Scottish Government has for several years being developing what is known as the Scottish Approach to Government – a set of principles and ways of making policy and delivering public services that to anyone from a design background look a lot like co-design and agile working. Which all begs the question – what can a design ethnographer add to the mix? How do the skills of ethnographic watching, listening, reflective learning and disruptive thinking play out in very large organisations?


Cat Macaulay will talk us through her experiences since joining Scottish Government as Head of User Research and Citizen Engagement. She will reflect on how her experiences and skills as a design ethnographer have helped her navigate one of the most challenging, and exciting, design contexts in the UK today. Through the lens of her work to connect service design and user research with public sector digital transformation in particular, and democratic renewal more generally, she will also reflect on how well the service design and design ethnography communities have addressed the issues that sit at the heart of efforts to innovate government in Scotland – how we voice the voiceless, engage the disengage, scale learning, and connect people to power. Finally, Cat will the audience to reflect their experience as citizens of government against their understanding of how design and design ethnography can enhance all our lives. What are the opportunities to positively influence change at a national level the design community should be seizing?