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Helping those that need help the most do we make it easier for those in need to understand what help they might be entitled to? It’s a bit of a minefield, even when you’re familiar with the systems of government – and yet we often expect average Joe Citizen to negotiate it with ease.

We too were a small band of merry misfits, tasked with expanding the service offering of the cross-agency juggernaut/success story that is SmartStart as part of a design sprint.

Our team involved members from Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and Inland Revenue (IR). We were guided along the sprint process by Creative HQ, who persevered with us while we struggled with defining problems, creating solutions, and generally pushing boundaries!

The sprint breakdown


New or pending parents don’t know what services they’re entitled to. It’s too hard for them to do everything they need to so that they can access the services they’re eligible for.


People who are on, or are close to, benefits – those who need the help the most.

Our approach

The problem is that people don’t know what they don’t know. How can we connect them with the information that they need, while minimising the effort they have to go to in order to get what they need?

The first step was to understand the information that we currently had around parents and in particular those in our target group.

We then used that information to brainstorm and create ideas. This was interesting as we all had different ideas and opinions as to what the right path was. It seems that’s the benefit of the Sprint approach – bringing together a range of opinions, thoughts and experiences to create something beneficial for users.

These ideas were then refined and honed into one beautiful, working prototype that could be tested with customers.

Our concept

The concept centres around minimising effort for parents who have may various needs, but are unaware of their entitlements. How much information would they be prepared to share with a service, in order to get a result that will save them time and provide a direct benefit to them? Is there a level where it becomes too ‘big brother’? Can we then use the information shared to initiate conversations on their behalf with the agencies providing those benefits/services?

Customer testing

The team was lucky in that we were able to test the prototype with a few people directly in our target market. These tests showed that this service would definitely meet a need, and enable more people to interact with government in a way that empowers them and helps them feels more in control, and more able to self-serve.

While there was definitely a point of discomfort in terms of personal information, the team was quite surprised that it was not at the point we thought it would be. In other words, people are more than happy to share quite a lot of information with government – and expect that government will share that information amongst itself.

At the end of the week we felt we had a robust product to take back to the SmartStart team and had answered some fundamental questions, including:

  • Are people are happy to share information with government?
  • Do people care about how and where their information is shared within government?
  • Do customers see value in being able to only provide information once, to be used (if required) across multiple applications?
  • What format of information do people respond to, and how can we help them feel more engaged and in control of their decisions?

What did the team think of the process?

Adele: “Overall this process was rewarding. I was impressed what we actually achieved in a week and the outputs ensured we had something tangible to take back to the table for consideration.  Talking to customers reminded me not to assume you know what people want and how important it is to keep these people in mind as we build new services.”

Beth: “I enjoyed the process – it challenged some of my ideas a lot. We achieved a great result – and it’s good to see that you can get those results in a short time frame. It was a valuable experience for all of us, I think, and cemented the fact for me that anything we do in government must be co-designed with users to give maximum benefits.”

Indi: “The entire sprint was a great learning opportunity, it’s amazing how much can be done in a week; we were able to research, sketch, prototype and test a new product. I found it really interesting that certain questions raised red flags for customers. This highlighted the need to ensure that the service explains clearly why questions are being asked and what customer information will be used for."

Lab+ is housed in the Service Innovation Lab, which is an experiment carried out under the leadership of the ICT Partnership Framework’s Service Innovation Group. It's managed by the Service Innovation Team in Department of Internal Affairs in partnership with Assurity Consulting.

Check out earlier blog posts about Lab+ and the Service Innovation Lab.

Follow us on Twitter at @NZLifeEvents.

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