“Our agency”

Some thoughts and drawings about hashtag#servicedesign, hashtag#livedexperience and hashtag#mentalhealth

David Blumenstein
3 min readDec 23, 2023

When I’m not drawing comics, I work as a service designer helping organisations improve by providing them with research, mapping and visual explainers showing them what’s going on with their service.

Comic showing the difference between the current, paper based experience of lodging an insurance claim, and a digital version

I find myself working a lot with legacy organisations (old places. could be businesses, or govt bureaucracies) that have been around for a long time and have perhaps settled into a way of operating.

This generally isn’t optimal. The people in the org don’t love it, but they’ve made it work as well as they can given their (lack of) power, the systems they have to work with and the rules they have to follow.

Part of a comic about how people working in organisations are stymied by lack of role clarity and prioritisation of the organisation’s goals

What they may not have done is consult with people who receive their services (or are subject to them, unwillingly) in order to get a fuller picture of what the experience is like.

Sketchbook scribblings about why you would talk to people who experience a service as part of redesigning the service

I’m sometimes lucky to work with, or bring in the help of, people with lived experience of these services. Better is when the organisation actually employs people with lived experience of their service.

The other day I went to VMIAC’s unconference, where we heard from ‘lived experience directors’ who do this job at different orgs within the mental health system.

I’m not an expert in mental health, but my humble research suggests that you want people who have received mental health services working in those mental health services, not just doctors and therapists.

Visual scribe of parts of a talk by the consumer commissioner at Victoria’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

As social workers, peer workers or senior management, they’re contributing to the quality of services, helping smooth the way for people trying to access them and advocating against the system’s most restrictive practices.

Part of a chart asking who a young person might speak to if they are dealing with poor mental health, and what they might expect from them

Our mental health system does not always work well, and it has the power to do all sorts of things to people against their will. People who’ve been subject to it should be in the room for, and even leading, reforms at the orgs who oversee it.

Part of a visual scribe from the VMIAC unconference quoting Ingrid Stitt, Victorian minister for mental health

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system recommended an agency be formed that’s led by people with lived experience of mental health services. I’d like this to exist, so I support VMIAC in calling on the Vic govt to make it happen.

Sign this letter to the Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Mental Health asking for them to #FundOurAgency, please: https://ouragency.good.do/Funding/SignTheLetter/



David Blumenstein

David works in service/strategic design: experienceillustration.com. He draws comics at Squishface Studio: squishfacestudio.com. Other stuff: nakedfella.com.