Master Design

A Compassionate Civil Servant

Maike Klip
Major Master Design
Year Graduation Project

Nominee Master Research Award 2020

The digital government is made by humans. In a long relay race, civil servants in implementing organisations bring the law to the citizen. You might never see them, but now you do. Seventeen officials from the Education Executive Agency show themselves on

Take a walk with them. Change your perspective: the function they have in the system or how they are as a person. Discover non-compassionate patterns. Reasons why they, civil servants, cannot live up to the values of a compassionate digital government.

By photographing her colleagues at the Education Executive Agency as a compassionate civil servant, Maike Klip exposes these patterns. Together with them, she also designs ways to break through the patterns, to ensure a compassionate digital government.

Maike uses the concrete language of photography to portray the more abstract ‘compassion for the citizen’ of her colleagues. For example, distance in photography is about the distance from the focal point in cm. Compassion is about emotional distance: how close are we to each other? This new language helps civil servants to reflect on their role in the relationship between government and citizens. They look at their own image. Is this how they are as a compassionate civil servant?

Or should it be different?

Maike shares the portrait and story of each civil servant on her research blog. This is unique for the government: such honest and personal stories of civil servants who normally do not show themselves. Is that even allowed for government officials?

Open, fair and inclusive is the new way of working for the government. If we don’t show ourselves, how can citizens come to us?

Self-portrait as a Compassionate Civil Servant

Read Maike Klip’s design research in nine essays and walk along with the compassionate civil servants.