The Challenge

Align policy intentions with public services.

The Outcome

A redesign of multiple government agency policies and practices that puts the public’s needs first and improves services.

As a small, young nation, Singapore has come a long way in a short time. Its cost-conscious education system enables social mobility, its public healthcare system is a model of success, and it has achieved financial independence. What’s more, 80 percent of its citizens reside in Singapore’s desirable and attainable public housing complexes.

But even with these successes, Singapore wanted to improve upon its existing systems. In 2008, government agencies came to IDEO to help connect the intention behind their policies with how their services were delivered to the public. To bridge the gap, IDEO Singapore partnered with five government agencies on more than 12 projects.

A few highlights:

Singapore’s Ministry of Health
The Ministry subsidizes up to 80 percent of healthcare costs. Understanding their financial options may, at times, be difficult for patients, especially in situations where they’re grappling with stressful medical conditions. Although the government has reassured Singaporeans that no one will be denied medical treatment even if they can’t pay, public sentiment that healthcare in Singapore is increasingly unaffordable still pervades.

So the Ministry worked with IDEO to give patients financial peace of mind at a time when their well-being is of utmost importance, and to improve their healthcare experience overall. Inspired by doctors’ ability to talk about patients’ diagnoses across a range of potential outcomes, IDEO designed a more patient-centric care cost discussion guide, and developed a new digital tool designed to help patients better understand and predict healthcare costs. The care cost discussion guide is currently being prototyped in two hospitals.

IDEO’s work with the Ministry of Health (MOH) extends to the communication strategy for a newly introduced government-sponsored insurance policy, MediShield Life. MOH recognized that government communications needed to incorporate important nuances to engage citizens around the new policies and benefits. Together with MOH, IDEO developed ideas for a citizen engagement strategy that brought to life a journey that includes how Singaporeans learn about a policy, sign up, and understand benefits and subsidies.

The Ministry of Manpower
One of the Ministry’s roles is to process work passes for foreigners, who make up 30 percent of the nation’s workforce. The Ministry was known for its speed and efficiency, but not its customer service. IDEO partnered with the Ministry’s Work Pass Division to design all of the touchpoints around acquiring a new work pass—from the letters applicants receive to the website, physical space, and the interactions that occur there.

In addition, IDEO embarked on a series of projects with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) aimed at streamlining and simplifying its communications. Together, they addressed the question, “How do we create communications that are easily understood and better engage MOM’s customers?” Starting with the most common letters sent out by MOM’s Work Pass Division, they defined a more customer-oriented tone of voice and visual style. To scale up the new approach, IDEO trained many MOM officers to write with the customer’s perspective in mind.

The National Population and Talent Division
The agency asked IDEO to better understand the underlying reasons for Singapore’s all-time-low birthrate and design ways to encourage Singaporeans to have more children.

The Ministry of National Development
More than 80 percent of Singapore’s citizens live in public housing. The Ministry asked IDEO to bring to life Singaporeans’ notion of home and identify ways to keep their aspirations at the center of their work.

Building creative confidence across Singapore’s public sector will be an ongoing journey, but the country is actively building the tools it needs to maintain its citizen-centered approach in an increasingly complex world.