Posts Tagged ‘ Co-Design ’

Weekend warriors

“Thank God it’s Friday.”

I’ve used that phrase so many times in my life, I can’t even remember, even if it did lose its meaning for a while back in the dark days of my final uni year, where the traditional ideas of time off and relaxation went out the window (along with any notion of nutritional balance, personal grooming and normal social interaction). At degree show this year, I stood with a group of guys who I’d graduated with, talking about the past year and what was different – when the return of the weekend was mentioned, we all looked wistfully into the middle distance, smiling.

So these little pockets of workless freedom now come along every week, and like everyone else, I have to think about what the hell to do with myself now I’ve cut loose of the Art School. If you know me, you’ll know a few things – namely that I hate to be idle, I need to be social, I make astonishing sandwiches and I’ll travel back to Scotland at the drop of a hat. A whole year after I got my Saturday nights and Sunday mornings back, I decided the best way to spend the weekend would be doing design, in a uni, at Social Innovation Camp. Go figure.

Catherine and a James leading the way...

If you’re not familiar with the premise, it’s fairly straightforward – from near enough 100 submitted social start-up ideas, the good people at SI Camp whittle them down to the six most promising, and issue a call to arms. A bunch of developers, service designers and graphic designers then muster themselves and help those with the ideas to bring something together by the Sunday afternoon, ready to pitch for the glory of victory, and the promise of the support to make things happen. In a nutshell – 36 hours to change the world.

Team ShareCare, including a bevvy of men called James.

In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect from the weekend. I walked into my team – originally titled Lend-A-Hand, later ShareCareClub – and saw a thought out, well-justified idea that was already being piled into by the project’s development team, and generally, a lot of other people called James. Did I arrive too late? Would there be any role for a service designer? Was another James really what my team needed?

Ralph and Kirsty during our epic blether. What a guy, unbelievable stories to tell.

It took a while to figure this one out, but in the best traditions of design, I listened, and I waited. My role was a little different from what I’m used to, but I hope I helped the team get the most out of our time talking to stakeholders, and to give them a bit of an education in mixing new insights into the concept, and mapping out the detail of the future service – even if we were blighted with some truly terrible post-it notes and an inability to notice when the mountain of dinner pizza had arrived. I hope that the guys I was working with got something out of it all – it certainly showed me the benefit of working in a team that includes developers throughout the design process, which strikes me as a great, productive way to work.

Half the service plan is on the floor at this point... love cheap post its.

In the truest sense, it was a team effort that involved everyone, and it was great to work with such an enthusiastic bunch of people. I will push a lot of credit towards the dev team for doing such an awesome job at creating a brilliant, engaging tech demo for the final pitch. Seeing dozens of people around the room leap up at receiving the ‘call to action’ for the service was experience design at its finest, and I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot as I heard the messages hitting their targets.

#sicamp feed at the presentations... we cut it fine, no mistake.

At the end of the weekend, with everyone fading a bit, and the smell of pizza crusts and stale coffee hanging rank in the air, the project won the backing of IRISS, and I was grinning all over again. When you do the maths (as Glen from SI Camp did) and think about the sheer amount of man-hours and effort that the 80-odd people there put in over the weekend, it’s pretty humbling, and utterly inspiring – as weekends go, it wasn’t relaxing, but bloody hell, it gives you faith in what a small group of focused, driven people can produce. If this weekend shows what enthusiasm and ability can combine to do, then God help anyone who doubts what can be achieved by those who believe in the power of social innovation.


The troops, some beers, and a train back to Glasgow

A massive thanks to everyone involved in the weekend – all the organisers, all the judges, everyone who gave up their time to help bring six great ideas to life – and of course, a special thanks to my team, especially Catherine, whose idea Lend-A-Hand (and subsequently ShareCareClub) was. It was a pleasure to be involved in such a worthwhile piece of work! Finally, well done to Food Radar, who won the overall event prize with a really nice concept around reducing food waste in retail.


Real world design

Thursday and Friday of last week saw me making the decision to get involved with an outside project, working as a designer at a co-design workshop put on in conjunction with the Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland (LTCAS). The event was looking into the future of a project called ALISS – improving Access to Local Information to Support Self management – which aims to provide a platform for linking up individuals with long term health conditions, providing information and access to existing support mechanisms that are currently out there, but not too easy to find. This little video by the people behind the workshop gives you the run-down.

The workshop itself contained a hugely diverse mix of people – individuals with long-term conditions, designers, and lots of people from other organisations in the public and private sectors, all of whom were needed to contribute to the overall design process. From a personal perspective, the idea was quite daunting – I’ve no experience of co-design beyond group-work on previous projects, and the fact that I was expected to lead people with no design experience, through the design process, was a little nerve-racking at first. Each group was allocated a designer (all of whom were current or former students from the Glasgow School of Art Product Design course), with our role being to act as a facilitator for the rest of the people in our group; assisting them through the design process.

Once I got settled with my second group (I was ousted from the first in what can only be described as a coup… well, not really, another group had no designer, and we had two), I began to get a handle on things, and we began the design process, which proceeded over the two days. Working together, we dissected our allocated area of exploration and started to pull together all the information needed to justify the design proposal that the group was producing – it’s not a simple task to facilitate in this situation, as you essentially have to think through the whole design process yourself for the problem, and then try and encourage the group onto the next stage. However, I was pretty amazed at how well the group got a handle on it, and really started offering up solid parts of process work, such as user journeys and concise statements of what they wanted to achieve.

All in, the proposal (People Helping People) looked at how ALISS could offer a way of facilitating access to the extensive number of support opportunities that exist already, but are poorly connected, allowing people with similar conditions and experiences to help support each other. Additionally, it suggested that those most able to support those with LTCs are those who also live with them, and that the service should be able to empower them to help people use ALISS as a means of adjusting to life with their condition, by becoming ‘givers’ – people who use their role as support providers to help themselves.

Realistically though, my blog post isn’t about what we produced as a group, but about how it was achieved. I have nothing but praise for my group – they worked their arses off over the two days, and really got their head around the way of thinking that we take for granted as designers. Sarah and Lauren (Drummond and Currie, directors of Snook, and co-ordinators of the design side of the workshop) produced some great tools to help pull their thinking together, and it really helped structure the days, and allowed the group members to see just how much work they had actually done. I was sceptical, even at the end of the first day, that we were achieving much, but I think the validation provided by the participation of those with LTCs is incredibly valuable, and the quality of work produced by the end of the workshop speaks for itself.

From a personal perspective, it was an eye-opening experience. I learned a hell of a lot about co-design, as well as how to explain design process to people with no design history, and I enjoyed seeing people grasp the concepts I work with in my uni coursework, and the fact that they seemed to really get something out of it. On another level, it was incredibly validating to see that design process can work in real situations, with real people, who have real problems.

I spoke to the head of my course the other day about design as a career, and how I think it’s fairly unique in that you really have to believe in what you are designing to do a good job. I’ve heard designers badly justify it by saying they won’t work for fast food companies and the like (pish – the truly bold thing would be to take the job and affect change), but the truth is that I agree with the sentiment. This workshop made be believe in design, my career, and that given the opportunity, people can achieve change for the better.