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Creating design-based community solutions

Noel Hatch
Research & Design Manager, Kent County Council

TransformedbyYou-blog-topimage

Transformed by You

Transformed by You is a four-year programme in Kent, England to encourage communities, students and entrepreneurs to find design-based solutions that will improve their neighbourhoods and public services.

 

Problem

Through the project, we want local people to come together to share ideas and create solutions for local issues using technology. We have been supporting students to build their knowledge and skills around integrating user needs when developing solutions, and ensuring that some of those solutions taken forward are grounded in bottom-up principles of design.

 

Why we used the tools

We used the DIY toolkit as a starting point to train college and university students in using the principles of service design to enhance community spaces around them. We selected tools that would support students to uncover issues and opportunities, articulate needs, prototype ideas and design solutions. We used:

 

  • Theory of Change to set short-term measurables for the overall project and agree the long-term change that we want to see.
  • Question Ladder as a new way to interview different people in a responsive manner. We used the matrix as a framework to be able to adapt questions based on interviewees’ answers.
  • Fast Idea Generator to come up with lots of ideas that might tackle some of the issues affecting the use of public spaces.
  • Partnerships Map to identify the varying degrees of engagement by different stakeholders involved in the project. We wanted to see opportunities to stretch these partnerships to become more meaningful over time.
  • Causes Diagram and Problem Definition to deconstruct and reframe the issues, and ensure we were focusing on the right problems.

 

How we used the tools

The tools we used most extensively in the field were the Question Ladder and Fast Idea Generator.

 

We used the Question Ladder to provide a structured and unified way of interviewing that would get under the skin of a person’s experience of the topic. We wanted to dive as deep as possible into the person’s insights, and not just ask the maximum number of questions possible.

 

Transformed For You's adaptation of the Question Ladder
Transformed For You’s adaptation of the Question Ladder.

 

We encouraged students to listen for signals given by the interviewee – what they said, how they said it and what their body language revealed to mirror the senses they were using.

 

We conceived of the Fast Idea Generator like a Rubik’s cube in reverse by taking the issues, opportunities and assets we identified and switching them around. Every combination created a new idea. We were able to see possibilities to make the best use of public space by inverting, grafting or exaggerating existing practices.

 

Transformed for You's Fast Idea Generator template
Reversing thinking with the Fast Idea Generator.

 

 

Results of using the tools

The tools provided a structure for simplification. They helped us all to make sense of the information we’d gathered.

 

The Theory of Change and problem reframing exercises helped to give us a clear indication of the areas that we needed to focus on at the outset of the project. Combined, they gave us a more systematic approach to designing and running projects like this.

 

The Question Ladder really accelerated and simplified the process of creating a set of questions to guide an interview. Rather than going through lots of possible prompts and questions and selecting the relevant ones, students were able to design and adapt their interviews by combining questions in different ways based on interviewees’ answers.

 

The Fast Idea Generator tool encouraged people to open up where typical brainstorming sessions often fail. Following the interviews, students were faced with lots of issues and possibilities, and using this tool helped them to find ideas more quickly and creatively than we had been able to before.

 

One area for development is to provide more context around the Causes Diagram exercise. We had trouble explaining the difference between root causes and symptoms to the students.

 

Outcomes

A number of the ideas we formulated are being developed and incubated. One example is an idea to help elderly people manage their hydration. Students learned that local elderly residents were often getting dehydrated, which had the knock-on effect of them needing to go to hospital and alarming their families. A solution that emerged is to place a sensory device on kettles that will alert the elderly individual and their family (remotely) if a set period of time has lapsed without them making themselves a drink.

 

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