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According to economists, services are items that are not manufactured and are typically delivered on-demand. They tend to be ongoing, or things you return to again and again, unlike the single-instance events that characterize products.

The touchpoints of the transaction, the culture and community of the coffee shop, are components of the shop's service, which is ongoing and intangible.

Going back to our coffee shop example, while the coffee you drink is a new product every day, the coffee shop provides the ongoing service of stocking, making, and selling coffee.

As readers of this Guide probably already know, the public sector is, in fact, primarily a service provider. The services of governance, civil and criminal protections, environmental and food safety regulations, and so many others, are the primary reasons for the public sector's existence.

Case Study: Human-Centered Design Capacity Building

While the public sector provides many public-facing services, it also provides services to itself in many forms. One of those forms is that of education and capacity building for the workforce. An example of this type of service is The Lab at OPM and the Veterans Experience Office's (VEO's) Human-Centered Design (HCD) Capacity Building program, established in 2018.

This program was a match between The Lab's mission to provide education and training to all levels of government as well as private sector professionals and VEO's increasing need for human-centered design capabilities.

A table showing the different modalities of learning, areas of expertise, and domains of innovation offered in The Lab's Design Learning offerings. On the far left, the word passive is on top. On the far right, directly across from the word passive, the word active is on top. On the far left, under passive, there is a description of passive learning called Read, See, Hear. This modality is described as Read about design and design projects, watch a video, listen to a talk or a podcast. To the immediate right, there is a modality called Learning-focused Workshop participation. This modality is described as: Take a fundamentals of human-centered design course. To the immediate right of that, there is a modality called Learn through experience. It is described as: Work with designers to witness their process and see the results of design thinking. To the right again, a modality is called Co-design event(s), which is described as Hold a co-design event with design experts to start finding a response to your complex problem. One more step to the right, a modality called Co-design Process appears. It is described as Work side-by-side with design experts to learn their process, design thinking and participate in the results. Farthest to the right, directly under the word Active is a modality called Doing, with coaching and mentoring. It is described as Design and implement your own design process with support and mentoring from seasoned design experts. Then there is a solid, vertical line. The right side of the line is labeled Result. Under Result, there is a section called Flying Solo, which is described as Apply your expertise and share your insights and successes with a connected federal network of design thinkers. Under this description are the words: Practice, Communicate, Facilitate, Teach, Mentor. To the right of Flying Solo, there is an icon of a graph pointing up and labeled Measure. Under the entire table just described, there are the words Design Expertise. Listed under Design expertise are: User Experience (UX) design, Service design, Product design, Program design, Policy design, Design strategy, and Design research. To the right of this list is another list labeled Domains of Innovation. The Domains are listed as Public Services, Social Services, Housing/Community, Health, Culture/Education, Transportation/Infrastructure, Economic Affairs, Public Oder/Safety, Defense, Intelligence, Science/Technology, Energy, Environment, Cities, International Affairs, and Policy. The caption reads: A description of the different learning modalities and areas of expertise identified by The Lab as means by which to gain mastery in the Human-Centered Design practice.

A description of the different learning modalities and areas of expertise identified by The Lab as means by which to gain mastery in the Human-Centered Design practice.

Since its establishment in 2015, VEO has relied almost exclusively on a combination of designs from The Lab at OPM and HCD contract resources to source expertise in applying HCD to solve complex problems. As the designated CX organization in VA, VEO seeks to increase its HCD capacity through this program to deepen VEO’s understanding of Veteran needs and develop innovative tools and solutions to meet those needs. This program is also an opportunity for VEO and The Lab at OPM to build an HCD capacity-building program. In addition to fulfilling an immediate need, this program could be leveraged by other Agencies in support of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA), Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal of Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services. The capacity-building program is designed to increase VEO’s capacity to provide HCD support to VA and provide a framework for other Agencies to use as well.

An illustration of human-like figures on the left side of the screen labeled The Lab and other human-like figures on the right side of the screen labeled VEO. Between the lab figures and VEO figures, dashed lines appear, indicating the transfer of knowledge from The Lab group to the VEO group.

In this way, the HCD Capacity Building program is an example of a service that one agency (OPM) provides to another agency (VA). The exchange is comprised of knowledge and practice, and return on investment is long-term and strategic. Its evolution is ongoing, as there is no one-stop-shop for learning a complex practice like design. In order to support the participants' development, however, The Lab has articulated a path to "launch", ie, welcome into the public sector design community, that includes a variety of formal, class-based requirements as well as project-based evaluations.