Impressions from a Scottish Design Hop

 In September 2020 Digital for Good teamed up with CAST and SCVO to deliver a Design Hop to seven Scottish Charities.

What is a Design Hop?

Design hop is a brief hop into digital service design; a half day hands-on workshop where CAST and their regional partners help local charities unpack and tackle their service delivery challenges together.

Attendees go away with two things:

  • An approach to digital service design they can replicate again and again
  • Lift off with an idea or challenge that goes right to the heart of their beneficiaries’ service needs.

Maddie and Milosz from Digital for Good were co-leading the Design Hop workshops. We also supported the charities throughout the process and provided a space for participants to collaborate and support each other. After the Hop concluded, the charities became members of our community and are now able to get support from our volunteers.

Here are two charities talking about their experience.

Laura McPherson from Stirling Carers Centre:

I signed up for the Design Hops course not really knowing what to expect. I’d read the course brief and it sounded like something that would be beneficial for us as an organisation.

In the first session we looked at identifying our key issue, and our knowledge and assumptions around this issue. This was helpful, as I began to see just how many assumptions were being made. It quickly became clear why we were encountering issues. The concept of ‘constant iteration’ was then introduced - the idea that you start with a simple solution that solves the problem at a basic level and build from there.

The next phase was user research, and this presented us with quite a challenge. We knew getting user feedback on the issue was going to be difficult, as our issue was poor engagement in our digital services. The target group could not be sent a survey by email, and posting 1,500 surveys is expensive! Fortunately, Ab and Maddie (facilitators), pointed me to other organisations who had faced similar issues. This proved very helpful, as speaking with them gave me ideas of ways around this. We opted to build a digital services survey into our triage process. When our reception team answer a call, where appropriate, they now ask for the caller's views on digital services.

Once we had some basic research, we did an exercise called 'Rapid 8's' to come up with some solutions. I only managed to come up with four instead of eight possible solutions, and they weren't great! I started to think that an app might be the way forward, but I wasn’t sure how the concept of constant iteration fit with this.

In the final session we were trying to refine our ideas for the first stage of the solution. Something was still not sitting right with me about the app idea, and it just felt like I was missing something.

When we were talking through our potential solutions, I had the lightbulb moment that I had been looking for!

The issue was people not engaging with digital services.There was no use in developing a digital solution, if many of the people we support don’t have access to or are not confident in using digital technologies. We need to be putting our efforts into providing Carers with the skills that they need to become confident digital citizens.

As a result, we are working on adding a digital skills assessment into our registration process. This will mean we can identify if someone needs that support right from day one. Initially this will be linking with partner organisations, but down the line we hope to be able to offer thisin-house by training staff and volunteers to be digital champions.

I now have a sticker on my monitor that says ‘Constant Iteration’. It reminds me each day that we don't need the biggest and fanciest solution straightaway. What’s important is meeting the needs of the service user in the simplest way for that particular moment in time.

Esther Elliot from Workplace Chaplaincy Scotland:

My name is Esther Elliott, I work for a charitable organisation providing emotional and spiritual care and support to people in av ariety of workplaces in the West of Edinburgh. I signed on to the Design Hop recently advertised by SCVO because I had a sense that I needed to up my digital game in order to be more effective in my role in the current context. I was really unclear about what, how or why that might be and, to be honest, that vagueness didn’t lift when I read the advertising for the training. It feltlike all the right words, just not in sentences that immediately offered a quick solution.

It turns out that’s the whole point of the digital design process that we had the opportunity to learn about and practice on the Design Hop! Vagueness is good and useful. It acts as a barrier to multi-initiative zeal (and zealots). It slows the pace of work that is relational. Most importantly, it acts like a constant nag to ask questions and put the needs of the service user first.

My background is in adult education. I am trained in coaching and asset-based community development. I am used to working in ways which enables learners and community members to set the direction of what I provide. I believe it’s the right thing to do. They are the experts on themselves, not me. I am used to using tools which enable people to sift through the vagueness they are experiencing over something they want to do or understand more. I’m used to helping people drill down, and then do something to make a start, however small. I’m used to working on projects which are not neat and tidy and linear. The Design Hop gave me a chance to use that belief, that model and those tools to design a digital service. I asked potential users what they wanted and needed and what would work for them. I questioned my personal assumptions about the people I work with. It turns out the things I thought were crucial were not really all that important. An experience I know only too well from the practice of coaching people! I’m in the process of designing something small which can be put out there and tested and easily changed.

The Design Hop has also given me and my vagueness some space in an on-line community of people willing to share their expertise and experience without selling it to me as the best solution. So, I guess one of the biggest things I learnt is that there are lots of people out there willing and able to help charities do their work better in the current context without imposing or directing. Less “should”, more “could”. Which, in my opinion, makes the world a better place!

Maddie Stark
Maddie Stark
SCVO Digital development worker, charity trustee and co-founder of Digital for Good
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