Furious and hopeful

Leah Lockhart


Design Informatics

November 14th, 2019


design researcher






I choose to work with public services

I have an assets based mindset

What to expect

  • A brief overview of some contexts I'm working in

  • Introduction to some conceptual frameworks that are helping me develop my identity and principles

  • How I am acting on my learning and changing my behaviour

  • A bit of rambling :)

A taste of Scotland's government policy landscape


Community Empowerment Act- centres ceding power to citizens


National Performance Framework- globally unique for including kindness and love


Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public

Services- rallying cry for radical public service reform

"I am committed to leading the most accessible Government this country has ever had."

- Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

"The vision for the Scottish Approach to Service Design is that the people of Scotland are supported and empowered to actively participate in the definition, design and delivery of their public services, from policy making to live service improvement."

Public services are the ideal places for designing with citizens.

aren't yet

The evergreen question in public sector:

How do we engage with disabled / poor / Black / Asian / LGBT / excluded / insert label communities?

Cue commissioning of outreach projects, research recruitment agencies, 'represetative' organisations...

Instead we should be asking, 'Why aren't you engaging with them already?'

Who isn't around the table? Why?

This is a crucial time for Scottish public services to think critically about their unjust systems and for designers to identify their role in dismantling them.



White Fragility

Robin DiAngelo

"White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves including the outward display of anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation and silence.


These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This book explicates the dynamics of White Fragility and how we might build our capacity in the on-going work towards racial justice."

White Fragility

Robin DiAngelo

"Whites have not had to build the cognitive or affective skills or develop the stamina that would allow for constructive engagement across racial divides."

"White people are taught not to feel any loss over the absence of people of colour in their lives. This absence is what defines their schools and neigbhourhoods as 'good'."

"White liberals often opt to protect what they perceive as their moral reputations, rather than recognise or change their participation in systems of inequity and domination."

White Fragility

Robin DiAngelo

  • resistance to conversations about privilege is a reaction to the challenge of internalised dominance
  • privileged groups see through frames of individualism and universalism = assigning labels to others
  • dominant groups are free of the psychic burden of marginalisation- it's what happens to others, by bad people
  • seeing Whiteness as the ultimate framework for racism is a process, not an event- start at an individual level and zoom out

Black Feminist Thought

Patricia Hill Collins

"Reading Black women's intellectual work, I have come to see how it is possible to be both centered in one's own experiences and engaged in coalitions with others. In this sense, Black feminist thought works on behalf of Black women, but does so in conjunction with other similar social justice projects.


For me, social injustice is a collective problem that requires a collective solution. When it comes to my work, the only thing that is essential is that it contribute toward this end."

Black Feminist Thought

Patricia Hill Collins

"Suppressing the knowledge produced by any oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to rule because the seeming absence of dissent suggests that subordinate groups willingly collaborate in their own victimisation."

"The term matrix of domination describes the overall social organisation within which intersecting oppressions take on historically specific forms that change in response to human actions- racial segregation persists, but not in the forms that it took in prior historical eras- so the shape of the domination itself changes."

Black Feminist Thought

Patricia Hill Collins

  • finding points of connection to Black feminist thought to further social justice requires you to become a 'traitor' to the privileges you hold
  • deeply considering issues around suppressed knowledge and what it might mean for connections to some communities in design research
  • the power of coalition and moving from 'ally' to 'accomplice' to marginalised people

The Queer Art of Failure

Jack Halberstam

"The Queer Art of Failure dismantles the logics of success and failure with which we currently live. Under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world.


I argue that success in a heteronormative, capitalist society equates too easily to specific forms of reproductive maturity combined with wealth accumulation."

The Queer Art of Failure

Jack Halberstam

"I want to propose low theory, or theoretical knowledge that works at many levels at once, as precisely one of these modes of transmission that revels in the detours, twists and turns through knowing and confusion and that seeks not to explain but to involve."

"I believe in low theory in popular places, in the small, the inconsequential, the antimonumental, the micro, the irrelevant; I believe in making a difference by thinking little thoughts and sharing them widely. I seek to provoke, annoy, bother, irritate, and amuse; I am chasing small projects, micropolitics, hunches, whims and fancies.

The Queer Art of Failure

Jack Halberstam

  • my ways of knowing are legitimate
  • there are other people in the cracks and at the edges- we are necessary in the pursuit of design justice
  • finding language, histories and theoretical frameworks alinged with my own non-normative paths and desires for public service design

So what, now what?

Design Justice Network

The Design Justice Network is an international group of people and organizations committed to rethinking design processes so they center people who are often marginalized by design. We work according to a set of principles that were generated and collaboratively edited by our network.

Design Justice Network principles

2. We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.

1. We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.

3. We prioritize design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer.

4. We view change as emergent from an accountable, accessible, and collaborative process, rather than as a point at the end of a process.

5. We see the role of the designer as a facilitator rather than an expert.

6. We believe that everyone is an expert based on their own lived experience, and that we all have unique and brilliant contributions to bring to a design process.

7. We share design knowledge and tools with our communities.

8. We work towards sustainable, community-led and -controlled outcomes.

9. We work towards non-exploitative solutions that reconnect us to the earth and to each other.

10. Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level. We honor and uplift traditional, indigenous, and local knowledge and practices.

Undesign | Redesign

We are a collaborative of people interested in open and ethical design of products and services. Our meetups are supportive places for critical discussion about current design practices and for the exploration of new or emerging ways of working. Your job title, position and sector don't matter here- anyone with an interest in inclusive and ethical design is welcome.

Find us on Twitter @UnReDesign

Thank you!

Join me on Twitter



Furious and hopeful at Design Informatics

By lockhartl

Furious and hopeful at Design Informatics

Design can be a key to collective liberation but design practices are deeply inequitable. Our public institutions aspire to be inclusive regardless of their unfair legacies. With the explosive growth in Scotland of service design in government, are newly designed public services at risk of reinforcing power imbalance and disguising oppression as human centered practice? How can designers be accomplices to unheard and underrepresented people in the pursuit of accessible and equitable public services? This talk is a story about finding professional identity, design ethics, leaning into anti-disciplinary knowledge and design justice. We’ll take a journey through areas of queer theory, Black feminist thought, articulating Whiteness, assets based approaches and probably end up with more questions than answers.

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