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Demonstrating a Public-Sector Resource Need

At a recent workshop, a supervising manager for the Multnomah County Library System asked the group if we could help her with a knotty problem – one that she hadn’t been able to solve in a year. She had a service delivery issue that her supervisor just couldn’t see. She needed mobile phones for her librarians, so that they could serve more clients faster, but the supervisor didn’t think the expense was justified.

We created a living prototype of the system, using workshop participants as touch-points and actors, to illuminate the gaps in service. Six participants acted out the system and workflow in microcosm, playing all the system participants, locations, interactions and pathways. The rest of the participants observed and gave feedback.

On seeing the system process in action, brought to life by the actors, the entire room was instantly able to see the subtle interactions within the workflows, including the roadblocks and breakdowns that the manager had been trying to communicate. “This is amazing!” she said. “If my boss saw this, she’d know exactly what I’ve been talking about for the past year!”

This exercise shifted the manger’s thinking, giving her new language and tools to help her boss see the situation more concretely and clearly.