Bristol Ageing Better (BAB) is a 5 year Big Lottery funded programme, to tackle isolation and loneliness in older people living within Bristol, a culturally diverse City where there are now at least 45 religions, 187 countries of birth represented and 91 main languages spoken.
BAB’s original business strategy proposed five separate services to help identify isolated and lonely Citizens in the community, understand their unmet needs and signpost them to the wide range of existing statutory and non-statuory services available.
Identifying a problem
My client, BAB’s Programme Director, had reviewed each of the five services to ensure they would be effective, efficient and financially viable and had identified what turned out to be a very complex built-in problem within the isolation and loneliness theme in their business strategy. He approached servicejunkie, looking for support to undertake “some kind of design process” that could help to revise and adapt these five service proposals, before commissioning.
Making sense of complexity
During two client meetings, I tried to make sense of the complexity and scale of the problem we were trying to solve by design. I proposed BAB should engage with a selection of their 150 delivery partners to explore the problem and bring more clarity to the design challenge. Within the constraint of a very small project budget, I began my design thinking process by reading existing research on isolation and loneliness, in order to learn more about the human context of the growing challenges to older people in our ageing Society and, more broadly to mental well-being and Healthcare.
What did we do next?
In response I offered to plan and facilitate a stakeholder workshop for up to 40 of BAB’s stakeholders, using a detailed plan to guide the client through the design process I would use and the deliverables he could expect at each stage. I worked closely with two associates to create an experiential approach to cultivating a workshop atmoshere of ‘empathy, creativity and innovative thinking’. The workshop was also intended to be a fun-yet-focused introduction to some key methods & tools designers use when taking a human-centred approach to the design of services.
“How to ‘join the dots’ between the foundation services of identifying, reaching out to and understanding the uniquely individual nature of an older person’s loneliness and isolation, before supporting them to access appropriate services and interventions that enable the mechanisms for reducing loneliness and isolation.”
The guide also expained some key design tools we would be introducing: empathy mapping, personas and user storytelling, to help participants focus on the people whose needs we were trying to serve. Others, such as stakeholder mapping, would help participants explore & visualise all the ‘actors’ involved in the service – the wider service ecology – mapping each of their needs, preferences, capacities, interests and value-relationships.
A gap-analysis tool, Johari’s Window, was introduced to help participants identify knowledge-gaps and assumptions within the five service proposals. Customer journey mapping and user-scenarios helped to bring each service alive. By the afternoon, a World café method would help each team see the service system (ecology) as a whole, by sequencing people around the workshop space and listening to the host team’s best ideas before offering some feedback and ideas for improvement.
Before the end of the day, each team would present their solutions to the workshop challenge.
On the day there was high level of participant engagement and some useful plenary discussions and alignment, but also some constructive criticism. I created a final report, which visually documented the workshop, capturing Post-it notes left on the workshop walls and offering participant feedback, including what my team could have done better.
My facilitation team helped all particpants engage in the day’s tightly-scheduled process, which considered all five service experiences from differents points of view and maintained an outside-in, empathic perspective of the diverse Citizen’s being served. The people-centred collaborative design workshop was a new of working for BAB’s stakeholders and wholly appropriate to this participatory stage of the design process.