I’d previously attended the Leeds Service Jam earlier in the year and blogged about it. I’m taking some practical action to become more Human focused in my work, trying to work more in the open (where possible), applying user centred techniques in a traditional policy role. Increasing my knowledge of Service Design and helping to contribute towards creating more effective evidence based policies supported by user needs. Developing my knowledge and updating my professional skills.
A Jam is a FUN high-energy event that brings diverse people across sectors together to work together towards a shared vision and goal. 48 hours to explore innovative ways to improve societal challenges in the open on community issues. Through either creating a new futuristic service or improving an existing one using Human Centred Design principles and a playful mindset. This year 33 cities took part. The UK cities taking part included – Dundee GovJam, Leeds GovJam and Nottingham GovJam.
The opening secret theme video, was purely sound clips. You could not get any more ambiguous!
Mental Health and Social Isolation
Our team task was to tackle the issue of Mental health and social isolation within Leeds. Social isolation nationally is an increasing area of concern, which is on the increase due to an ageing population. In Leeds alone, 37,000 people (approx. 5%) are estimated to suffer from social isolation. With 1 in 4 people suffering from mental health issues. This affects cardiovascular health, contributes to cognitive decline, shortens life spans and costs the NHS UK billions of pounds per year. With every £1 spent on social prescribing and community projects could save £6 in healthcare costs over the long term (Telegraph, June 2018)
Social prescribing can help improve patient’s wellbeing by prescribing social and leisure activities, volunteering opportunities or well-being activities, as well as dealing with medical needs. By connecting patients with support in their local community to help address their health issues holistically and give them greater control of their own health and wellbeing. GPs are prescribing Canal Trips to combat depression. A trip to the canal reduces stress and helps people deal with low mood and loneliness.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you, your employer, friends, charities or other professionals could socially prescribe, as an alternative to anti-depressants (under certain circumstances)?
Through Jamming our paths crossed with Canal Connections . An amazing social enterprise, with a vision that canals can provide a unique learning environment.
There is potential for work experience, apprenticeship or employment related opportunities particularly for those who benefit from practical or vocational experience. What better way to learn skills than #LearningByDoing, out in the open. Being on a canal boat is a relaxing experience, enabling people to engage with programmes of education, rehabilitation, reintegration or leisure with a fresh mindset.
We heard about the various ongoing initiatives such as working with retired older men, who miss being at work, to create the same environment on the boat. We heard stories about school children with learning difficulties and autism, who wouldn’t previously socialise. But once on the boat, the children started mixing with each other and talking. All these social activities can improve our mental health and wellbeing, reducing social isolation which are available on your doorstep benefiting the whole family and the community.
Talking to Service users
We worked in the open, by showing the 4 open questions we were going to ask, explained who we were, our research purpose and next steps.
User Research questions
This helped to build public trust. The Leeds public were very open, talking to us about their experiences on an emotive and sensitive subject. We met volunteers at organisations in this area, social carers, a family where all 3 generations had experienced being isolated and a manager who was on a break from his works mental health awareness training.
The key findings from User Research were its a problem across generations (even within families). There are multiple causes, from language barriers, the ageing population, through to simply being located away from family. User research identified 5 persona’s (Young, Elderly, Professionals, Charities/Social Enterprises and Employers). Most of the people we interviewed spoke about interests and hobbies as being important in making connections.
Employer views provided useful insights within the workplace. Team leaders often rely on each other for feedback about their employees. It takes time to get to know people. One can recognise mental health issues and isolation by observing change in moods. Men don’t like to admit or show emotions and openness about mental health depends on family types, whether old fashioned or modern.
Jamming the prototype
Putting the service user at the heart of each stage of the service is important. By going out to speak to the end user, building empathy with the community was valuable to test our assumptions and validate user research findings. Listening to real stories of real people and their experiences, understanding where the gaps are in the current service, barriers and values, made a big difference in understanding user needs. A walkthrough video of the prototype with one of our service end users.
Our prototype, showing what our service would look or feel like went through several different versions and formats (Paper, sketch, Lego, whiteboard, video) to help capture the user experience and customer journey. The proof of concept included connecting people who are struggling, with charities and voluntary organisations across Leeds. A bit like a prescription for socialising, you could be referred by your doctor as an alternative to taking anti-depressants (dependent upon circumstances) or self-refer by finding groups based on your interest from art classes, fishing clubs to canal societies
One of the ideas that emerged following User Research was a Tinder like socialising activity matching service. Our 4 minute show not tell video.
If there is no human need for the service or initiative, then don’t do it! Better to fail fast at the beginning, saving time and resources. Than fail very slowly at the end, wasting resources and creating a costly service that no one will use.
Beyond the Jam #ThisIsWhyWeJam
We won a team award for showing the most Jam spirit!
Our Awesome Team
Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could pitch our own projects, pick our own teams from across different sectors, Goverment, Academic, Public, Private, Social Enterprises and Charities to solve a societal challenge. Well nothing in the Jam is off limits, and we have just done this!
The great thing about social media if used in the right way, its reach is far wide and the response instant. User research identified lack of digital skills as social enterprises and charities are often run by volunteers. We wanted to help Canal Connections, so I reached out to my twitter connections for help, tweeting whilst on the boat. We have a meeting arranged to progress this.
We used 4G data and mobile phone hotspot to work on the boat, out in the open across the river.
Jamming took me on a amazing fast paced, journey across the river, outside of my comfort zone where awesome things happen!
Despite the fast paced environment, I managed to fit in a career conversation with Tanja Walsh and obtained advice from Beverley Smith, on the Digital Academy courses for enrolement (Research and Design in Government and Digital and Agile awareness for Policy Makers).
Keep a look out for a follow up blog and our team blog! I will be volunteering at the next Jam. Look out for a Jam coming at a city near you! Or better still why don’t you start your own? Be the change you want to see….. #ThisIsWhyWeJam