2–5 February 2021


Student Forum

Chief Design Officers in public organisations: What design leadership do we need in Singapore’s public organisations?


Presenting Author(s): Debbie Ng
05 February 2021

Please be aware that multiple presentations will take place during this session commencing at 05:30PM AEDT and share the same zoom link. Check how presentations are clustered in the program spreadsheet when adding the calendar.

Governments around the world are making tremendous efforts to innovate as they face the pressure of the VUCA - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous - world (Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2004; Kingsinger & Walch, 2012). Design thinking (Brown, 2008; Martin, 2009) as a human-centred approach provides clues to reform the public organisations by “designing for citizens” and “designing with citizens” with the hope that they can collectively overcome large-scale problems and create new value for public policies and services (Bason, 2017).

If design is situated to transform public organisations, including the creation of policy, citizen-centric service initiatives and enabling collaboration with citizens and stakeholders, how are top leaders within the government prepared to transit towards a “design-inspired” leadership? This paper proposes the idea that the impact and sustainability of design is largely influenced by the leadership at multiple levels of the organisation, especially when there are organisational barriers in integrating design within public organisations.

The approach to this research included a systematic literature review on three aspects i.e. design applications and barriers, public sector management and design leadership followed by an empirical study using selected cases of Singapore public organisations as case studies (Wong, 2018; “Transforming the Public Service Challenge,” n.d.; “Rethinking Public Services,” 2019; Voon, 2019). The qualitative research aims to gather empirical evidence on the kind of design leadership required to embed design and maximise its impact to support the public sector in its transformation goals. Findings from this research can contribute to public organisations seeking to drive change on how they can maximise the impact of design through the kind of design leadership required. While early findings have been made from the literature review, this research is still ongoing.

Europe (CET): 5th February 2021 7:30 am to 8:30 am

US (EST): 5th February 2021 1:30 am to 2:30 am

Download Event Paper

Debbie Ng
Debbie Ng
National University of Singapore

Debbie has over 10 years of experience helping both public and private sector organisations leverage design for strategic differentiation, innovation and business transformation. She is talented at developing the design capabilities of non-designers, ethnographic research methods, and developing stories and visualisations to support change. She has developed executive education programs, training curricula and design toolkits for many private and public sector clients. Through her practice, she has helped organisations adopt the design process to solve complex issues they are facing in delivering public value. Debbie is a certified Business Design Trainer and Facilitator through the Rotman School of Management and an Associate Trainer with the Civil Service College in Singapore. She also holds multiple certificates in service design and design innovation. She spoke at the 19th Design Management Institute: Academic Design Management Conference in London in 2014 on ‘Citizen-Centric Public Policies and Services Through Design’ and was subsequently published in ‘Design Management in an Era of Disruption’. Debbie also holds a Bachelor of Social Science Second Class Honours (Upper) in Economics and Bachelor of Science with Merit Field of Study Economics Grade Second Upper from the National University of Singapore.

Student Forum poster by Debbie Ng