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 new Programme Director, reviewed each of the five service proposals to ensure they would be effective, efficient and financially viable and identified what turned out to be a very complex built-in problem, within the isolation and loneliness part of the business strategy. He approached servicejunkie, looking for support to undertake “some kind of design process” that could help to revise and adapt the five service proposals, before the commissioning process could begin.
Making sense of complexity
During two initial project meetings, I tried to make sense of the complexity and scale of the problem we were trying to solve by design. Within the constraints of a small project budget, I began by discovering existing research on isolation and loneliness, in order to learn more about the human context and growing challenges for older people in our ageing Society and more broadly around the topic of mental well-being and Healthcare.
What did we do next?
Guiding the client through the design process, I proposed that BAB work with a selection of their 150 delivery partners to share the problem and engage them, through creative collaboration, to become part of any proposed solution. I then carefully planned the workshop for up to 40 of BAB’s stakeholders, working closely with two servicejunkie associates to create an experiential approach to learning. I wanted to create the conditions, which would elicit empathy for the people whose needs we were serving, and encourage creativity and innovative thinking in the participants. The result would be a fun-yet-focused introduction to some of the key methods & tools designers use, when adopting 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 preparation guide introduced some of the key design methods we would be using during the workshop: empathy mapping, personas and user storytelling – to encourage participants to focus on the older people whose needs we were trying to serve. Stakeholder mapping – to help participants explore & visualise all the ‘actors’ involved in the service – the wider service ecology, mapping their needs, preferences, capacities, interests and value-relationships.
A gap-analysis tool, Johari’s Window, would help participants identify knowledge-gaps and assumptions within the five service proposals. Customer journey mapping and user-scenarios would help to bring clarity to the service challenge. A World Café approach would help each team see the service system (ecology) as a whole, by sequencing people around the workshop space and listening to each host team’s best ideas, before offering any feedback and ideas for improvement. Before the end of the day, each team would present their solutions to the workshop challenge.
On the day of the workshop there was high level of participant engagement and some useful plenary discussions and alignment, but also constructive criticism. I created a final report, visually documenting the workshop process and offering the client feedback from participants, including what my team could have done better.
My delivery team helped all particpants engage in the co-discovery process, which considered all five service experiences from very different points-of-view and maintained an outside-in, empathic perspective of Bristol’s Citizen’s to better-serve their diverse needs.
The human-centred collaborative design workshop was a very new way of working for BAB’s partners and wholly appropriate in this participatory stage of the service design process.